Israel divided into two kingdoms

Read about when the division of the kingdom of Israel took place and why

As prophesied by Ahijah (1 Kings 11:31-35), the house of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. This division, which took place approximately 975 B.C., after the death of Solomon and during the reign of his son, Rehoboam, came about as the people revolted against heavy taxes levied by Solomon and Rehoboam.

Rehoboam’s reign

During Rehoboam's reign, the tribe of Judah and the majority of the tribe of Benjamin accepted Rehoboam as their king. They became the kingdom of Judah, or the southern kingdom of Israel, with its capital at Jerusalem. The other 10 tribes and the remainder of the tribe of Benjamin — usually spoken of as the Ten Tribes — chose Jeroboam as their king. The collective Ten Tribes retained the title of Israel, and became known also as Ephraim, which was the dominant tribe. It became the northern kingdom, with headquarters at Shechem in Samaria.

On the whole, Judah remained more faithful to Jehovah. Almost as soon as the northern kingdom of Israel was established, it went into apostasy. Although great prophets such as Elijah and Amos ministered in the kingdom, the people worshiped false gods and adopted many practices of Baalism.

The kingdom of Israel was more populous and powerful, but it fell some 135 years before Judah did. In about 721 B.C., Israel was captured by the Assyrians, under Shalmanezer, and carried away, and subsequently, became lost to the knowledge of men. They are now referred to as "the lost ten tribes."

Geographically, Judah was less exposed to attack, but in about 588 B.C., Babylonia's Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem and virtually put an end to the kingdom of Judah as its people were taken captive into Babylon. After nearly 70 years, Persia's king Cyrus subdued Babylon and permitted Judah to return to Jerusalem. Many of the people of Judah had become scattered throughout Asia, but the majority did return to Jerusalem. Assailed by Syria and Egypt, Judah never regained its former power. By the time of Jesus, Jerusalem had become a tributary of Rome.

Additional information:

Tribes of Israel divided at death of King Solomon

Baal influence leads Israel into apostasy

See “Israel, Kingdom of,” in the Bible Dictionary

Editor’s note: This article was updated in January 2024 to add links to scriptures and other references.

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