Kingdom Of Judah
From Bible Encyclopedia
When the disruption took place at Shechem, at first only the tribe of Judah followed the house of David. But very soon after the tribe of Benjamin joined the tribe of Judah, and Jerusalem became the capital of the new kingdom (Joshua 18:28), which was called the kingdom of Judah. It was very small in extent, being only about the size of the Scottish county of Perth.
For the first sixty years the kings of Judah aimed at re-establishing their authority over the kingdom of the other ten tribes, so that there was a state of perpetual war between them. For the next eighty years there was no open war between them. For the most part they were in friendly alliance, co-operating against their common enemies, especially against Damascus. For about another century and a half Judah had a somewhat checkered existence after the termination of the kingdom of Israel till its final overthrow in the destruction of the temple (588 BC) by Nebuzar-adan, who was captain of Nebuchadnezzar's body-guard (2 Kings 25:8-21).
The kingdom maintained a separate existence for three hundred and eighty-nine years. It occupied an area of 3,435 square miles. See Kingdom Of Israel.
I. Canaan Before the Monarchy.
1. The Coming of the Semites:
Some 4,000 years BC the land on either side of the valley of the Jordan was peopled by a race who, to whatever stock they belonged, were not Semites. It was not until about the year 2500 BC that the tide of Sere immigration began to flow from North Arabia into the countries watered by the Jordan and the Euphrates. One of the first waves in this human tide consisted of the Phoenicians who settled in the Northwest, on the seashore; they were closely followed by other Canaan tribes who occupied the country which long bore their name.
2. The Canaanites:
The Canaanites are known to us chiefly from the famous letters found at Tell Amarna in Egypt which describe the political state of the country during the years 1415-1360 BC - the years of the reigns of Amenophis III and IV. Canaan was at this time slipping out of the hands of Egypt. The native princes were in revolt: tribute was withheld; and but few Egyptian garrisons remained. Meantime a fresh tide of invasion was hurling its waves against the eastern frontiers of the land. The newcomers were, like their predecessors, Semitic Bedouin from the Syrian desert. Among them the Tell el-Amarna Letters name the Chabiri, who are, no doubt, the people known to us as the Hebrews.
3. The Israelite Confederacy:
The Hebrews are so named by those of other nationality after one of their remoter ancestors (Genesis 10:24), or because they had come from beyond (‛ēbher) the Jordan or the Euphrates. Of themselves they spoke collectively as Israel. Israel was a name assumed by the eponymous hero of the nation whose real name was Jacob. Similarly the Arabian prophet belonged to the tribe called from its ancestor Koraish, whose name was Fihr. The people of Israel were a complex of some 12 or 13 tribes. These 12 tribes were divided into two main sections, one section tracing its descent from Leah, one of Jacob's wives, and the other section tracing its descent from Rachel, his other wife. The names of the tribes which claimed to be descended from Leah were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, and, indirectly, Gad and Asher; those which claimed to be descended from Rachel were Joseph, which was divided into two clans; Ephraim and Manasseh, Benjamin, and, indirectly, Dan and Naphtali. The rivalry between these two great divisions runs all through the national history of the Hebrews, and was only brought to an end by the annihilation of one of the opposing factions (Isaiah 11:13). But not only was the Israelite nation a combination of many clans; it was united also to other tribes which could not claim descent, from Israel or Jacob. Such tribes were the Kenites and the Calebites. Toward such the pure Israelite tribes formed a sort of aristocracy, very much as, to change the parallel, the tribe of Koraish did among the Arabs. It was rarely that a commander was appointed from the allied tribes, at least in the earlier years of the national life.
4. Migration into Canaan:
We find exactly the same state of things obtaining in the history of the Arabian conquests. All through that history there runs the rivalry between the South Arabian tribes descended from Kahtan (the Hebrew Joktan, Genesis 10:25, etc.) and the northern or Ishmaelite tribes of Modar. It is often stated that the Old Testament contains two separate and irreconcilable accounts of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. According to the Book of Joshua, it is said the invasion was a movement of the whole people of Israel under the leadership of Joshua; according to the Book of Judges, it consisted of a series of expeditions made by individual tribes each on its own account (Judges 1:2, Judges 1:10, etc.). But again, in the history of the Arabs we find precisely the same apparent discrepancy. For Persia, Syria and Egypt were conquered by the Arabs as a whole; but at the same time no tribe lost its individuality; each tribe made expeditions on its own account, and turned its arms against rival tribes even in the enemy's country. On the confines of China in the East and in Spain on the West, the arms of the Yemen's tribes were employed in the destruction of those of Modar as fiercely as ever they had been within Arabia itself.
5. The Bond of Union:
The bond which united the Israelite tribes, as well as those of Kayin (the eponym of the Kenites) and Caleb, was that of the common worship of Yahweh. Moses united all the tribes of Israel into one whole by the doctrine of monotheism, giving them a common object of worship. In order to keep the Israelite nation pure, intermarriage with the inhabitants of the invaded country was forbidden, though the prohibition was not observed (Judges 3:5 f). So too, the Arab women were not permitted to marry non-Arabs during the first years of conquest.
6. Early Rulers:
It is customary to date the beginning of monarchy in Israel from Saul the son of Kish, but in point of fact many early leaders were kings in fact if not in name. Their word was law; they reigned supreme over a united nation. Moreover, the word “king” (melekh) often means, both in Hebrew and Arabic, nothing more than governor of a town, or local resident. There was more than one “king” of Midinn (Judges 8:12). Balak seems to have been only a king of Moab (Numbers 22:4).
7. The Judges:
Before the monarchy proper, the people of Israel formed, in theory, a theocracy, as did also the Arabs under the caliphs. In reality they were ruled by temporary kings called judges (shophēṭ, the Carthaginian sufes). Their office was not hereditary, though there were exceptions (compare Judges 9). On the other hand, the government of the Northern Kingdom of Israel was practically an elective monarchy, so rarely were there more than two of the same dynasty. The judge again was usually appointed in order to meet some special crises, and theoretically ideal state of things was one in which there was no visible head of the state - a republic without a president. These intervals, however, always ended in disaster, and the appointment of another judge. The first king also was elected to cope with a specially serious crisis. The main distinction between judge and king was that the former, less than the latter, obscured the fact of the true King, upon the recognition of whom alone the continued existence of the nation depended. The rulers then became the “elders” or sheikhs of the tribes, and as these did not act in unison, the nation lost its solidarity and became an easy prey to any invader.
8. Hereditary Kings:
During the period of the Judges a new factor entered into the disturbed politics of Canaan. This was an invader who came not from the eastern and southern deserts, but from the western sea. Driven out of Crete by invaders from the mainland, the last remnants of the race of Minos found refuge on the shores of the country which ever after took from them the name it still bears - Philistîn or Palestine. At the same time the Ammonites and Midianites were pressing into the country from the East (1 Samuel 11:1-15). Caught between these two opposing forces, the tribes of Israel were threatened with destruction. It was felt that the temporary sovereignty of the judge was no longer equal to the situation. The supreme authority must be permanent. It was thus the monarchy was founded. Three motives are given by tradition as leading up to this step. The pretext alleged by the elders or sheikhs is the worthlessness and incapacity of Samuel's sons, who he intended should succeed him (1 Samuel 8). The immediate cause was the double pressure from the Philistines (1 Samuel 9:16) and the Ammonite king (1 Samuel 12:12). The real reason was that the system of government by elective kings or judges had proved a failure and had completely broken down. The times called for a hereditary monarchy.
II. The First Three Kings.
1. The Benjamite King:
The most warlike of the clans of Israel shortly before this had been that of Benjamin - one of the Rachel tribes. The national sanctuary, with the ark and the grandson of Aaron as priest, was at Bethel in their territory. Moreover, they had defeated the combined forces of the other tribes in two pitched battles. They had at last been defeated and almost exterminated, but they had recovered much of their strength and prestige (Judges 20; 1 Samuel 4:12). From this tribe the first king was chosen (see SAUL). He, however, proved unequal to his task. After some years spent in war with the Philistines and in repressing supposed disloyalty at home, he was defeated and killed.
Meantime, one of the less-known clans was coming to the front. The territory of the tribe of Judah lay in the South. After its occupation (compare Judges 1:2, Judges 1:3), the tribe of Judah appears to have settled down to the care of its flocks and herds. It is not mentioned in the Song of Deborah. None of the judges belonged to it, unless Ibzan, who seems to have been of little account (Judges 12:8 f). Under the leadership of David (which see), this tribe now came to the front, and proved in the end to be endowed with by far the greatest vitality of all the tribes. It outlived them all, and survives to this day.
2. Rachel and Leah Tribes:
The Rachel tribes, led by Benjamin and Ephraim (2 Samuel 2; 3), resisted for some time the hegemony of Judah, but were obliged in the end to submit. Under David Israel became again a united whole. By making Jerusalem his capital on the borders of Judah and Benjamin, he did much to insure the continuance of this union (compare 1 Chronicles 9:3). The union, however, was only on the surface. By playing off the Rachel tribes, Benjamin and Ephraim, against the rest, Absalom was able to bring the whole structure to the ground (2 Samuel 15 ff), the tribe to which Saul belonged being especially disloyal (2 Samuel 16:5 ff). Nor was this the only occasion on which the smoldering enmity between the two houses burst out into flame (2 Samuel 20). As soon as the strong hand of David was removed, disaffection showed itself in several quarters (1 Kings 11:14 ff), and especially the aspiration of the tribe of Ephraim, after independence was fomented by the prophets (1 Kings 11:26 ff). Egypt afforded a convenient asylum for the disaffected until opportunity should ripen. They had not long to wait.
3. The Disruption:
Solomon was succeeded by Rehoboam, who found it politic to hold a coronation ceremony at Shechem as well, presumably, as at Jerusalem. The malcontents found themselves strong enough to dictate terms. These Rehoboam rejected, and the northern tribes at once threw off their allegiance to the dynasty of David. The disruption thus created in the Israelite nation was never again healed. The secession was like that of the Moors in Spain from the 'Abbhsid caliphs. Henceforth “Israel,” except in the Chronicler, denotes the Northern Kingdom only. In that writer, who does not recognize the kingdom of the ten tribes, it means Judah. It is usual at the present day to recognize in the Northern Kingdom the true Israelite kingdom. Certainly in point of extent of territory and in resources it was far the greater of the two. But as regards intellectual power and influence, even down to the present day, not to mention continuity of dynasty, the smaller kingdom is by far the more important. It is, therefore, treated here as the true representative of the nation. Lying, as it did, in the immediate vicinity of Jerusalem, the tribe of Benjamin could hardly do otherwise than throw in its lot with that of Judah Bethel, which became one of the religious capitals of the Northern Kingdom, although nominally within their territory, in fact belonged to Ephraim (Judges 1:22 ff).
III. The Dual Monarchy.
1. War Between Two Kingdoms:
Rehoboam made no decisive attempt to bring back the recalcitrant tribes to their allegiance (1 Kings 12:21 ff), though the two countries made raids, one upon the other (1 Kings 14:30). For his own security he built numerous fortresses, the remains of some of which have, it is probable, been recovered within recent years (2 Chronicles 11:5 ff). These excited the suspicion of Shishak of Egypt, who invaded the country and reduced it to vassalage (1 Kings 14:25 ff). Under Rehoboam's son Abijah, actual war broke out between the two kingdoms (1 Kings 15:6 as corrected in 1 Kings 15:7; 2 Ch 13). The war was continued during the long reign of his son Asa, whose opponent, Baasha, built a fort some 6 miles North of Jerusalem in order to cut off that city from communication with the North Asa confessed his weakness by appealing for help to Ben-hadad of Damascus. The end justified the means. The fort was demolished.
2. First Reform of Religion:
The reign of Asa is also remarkable for the first of those reformations of worship which recur at intervals throughout the history of the Southern Kingdom. The high places Reform of were not yet, however, considered illegitimate (1 Kings 15:14; but compare 2 Chronicles 14:5). He also, like his grandfather, was a builder of castles, and with a similar, though more fortunate, result (2 Chronicles 14:6, 2 Chronicles 14:9 ff). Asa's old age and illness helped to bring to the rival kingdoms a peace which lasted beyond his own reign (1 Kings 15:23).
3. Two Kingdoms at Peace:
An effect of this peace is seen in the expanding foreign trade of the country under his successor Jehoshaphat. He rebuilt the navy as in the days of Solomon, but a storm ruined the enterprise (1 Kings 22:48 f). During this reign the two kingdoms came nearer being united than they had done since the disruption. This was no doubt largely due to the Northern Kingdom having been greatly weakened by the wars with Syria and Assyria, and having given up the idea of annexing the smaller country. Moreover, Jehoshaphat had married his son Joram (Jehoram) to Ahab's daughter Athaliah. From a religious point of view, the two states reacted upon one another. Jehoram of Israel inaugurated a reformation of worship in the Northern Kingdom, and at the same time that of Judah was brought into line with the practice of the sister kingdom (2 Kings 8:18). The peace, from a political point of view, did much to strengthen both countries, and enabled them to render mutual assistance against the common foe.
4. Two Kingdoms Contrasted:
Up to the death of Jehoram of Israel, which synchronized with that of Joram and Ahaziah of Judah, 6 kings had reigned in Judah Of these the first 4 died in their beds and were buried in their own mausoleum. During the same period of about 90 years there were in Israel 9 kings divided into 4 dynasties. The second king of the Ist Dynasty was immediately assassinated and the entire family annihilated. Precisely the same fate overtook the IId Dynasty. Then followed a civil war in which two pretenders were killed, one perishing by his own hand. The IIIrd Dynasty lasted longer than the first two and counted 4 kings. Of these one was defeated and killed in battle and another assassinated. The fate of the kings of Israel is very like that of the middle and later ‛Abbâsid caliphs. The murder of his brothers by the Judean Jehoram, a proceeding once regular with the sultans of Turkey, must also be put down to the influence of his Israelite wife.
5. Revolution in the Northern Kingdom:
It was obvious that a crisis was impending. Edom and Libnah had thrown off their allegiance, and the Philistines had attacked and plundered Jerusalem, even the king's sons being taken prisoners, with the exception of the youngest (2 Chronicles 21:16). Moreover, the two kingdoms had become so closely united, not only by intermarriage, but also in religion and politics, that they must stand and fall together. The hurricane which swept away the northern dynasty also carried off the members of the southern royal house more nearly connected with Ahab, and the fury of the queen-mother Athaliah made the destruction complete (2 Kings 11:1).
6. Effect on the Southern Kingdom:
For 6 years the daughter of Ahab held sway in Jerusalem. The only woman who sat on the throne of David was a daughter of the hated Ahab. In her uniqueness, she thus holds a place similar to that of Shejered-Durr among the Memluk sultans of Egypt. The character of her reign is not described, but it can easily be imagined. She came to her inevitable end 6 years later.
7. Davidic House at Lowest Ebb:
Successive massacres had reduced the descendants of David until only one representative was left. Jehoram, the last king but one, had murdered all his brothers (2 Chronicles 21:4); the Arab marauders had killed his sons except the youngest (2 Chronicles 22:1; compare 2 Chronicles 21:17). The youngest, Ahaziah, after the death of his father, was, with 42 of his “brethren,” executed by Jehu (2 Kings 10:14). Finally, Athaliah “destroyed all the seed royal.” The entente with the Northern Kingdom had brought the Davidic dynasty to the brink of extinction.
8. Begins to Recover:
But just as ‛Abd er-Rahman escaped from the slaughter of the Umeiyads to found a new dynasty in Spain, so the Davidic dynasty made a fresh start under Joash. The church had saved the state, and naturally the years that followed were years in which the religious factor bulked large. The temple of Baal which Athaliah had built and supported was wrecked, the idols broken, and the priest killed. A fund was inaugurated for the repair of the national temple. The religious enthusiasm, however, quickly cooled. The priests were found to be diverting the fund for the restoration of the temple to their own uses. A precisely similar diversion of public funds occurred in connection with the Qarawiyin mosque in Fez under the Almoravids in the 12th century. The reign which had begun with so much promise ended in clouds and darkness (2 Kings 12:17 ff; 2 Chronicles 24:17 ff; Matthew 23:35), and Joash was the first of the Judean kings to be assassinated by his own people (2 Kings 12:20 f).
9. Reviving Fortunes:
By a curious coincidence, a new king ascended the throne of Syria, of Israel and of Judah about the same time. The death of Hazael, and accession of Ben-hadad III led to a revival in the fortunes of both of the Israelite kingdoms. The act of clemency with which Amaziah commenced his reign (2 Kings 14:5, 2 Kings 14:6; Deuteronomy 24:16) presents a pleasing contrast to the moral code which had come to prevail in the sister kingdom; and the story of his hiring mercenaries from the Ephraimite kingdom (2 Chronicles 25:5-10) sheds a curious light on the relations subsisting between the two countries, and even on those times generally. It is still more curious to find him, some time after, sending, without provocation, a challenge to Jehoash; and the capture and release of Amaziah evinces some rudimentary ideas of chivalry (2 Kings 14:8 ff). The chief event of the reign was the reconquest of Edom and taking of Petra (2 Kings 14:7).
10. Monarchy Still Elective:
The principle of the election of kings by the people was in force in Judah, although it seemed to be in abeyance since the people were content to limit their choice to the Davidic line. But it was exercised when occasion required. Joash had been chosen by the populace, and it was they who, when the public discontent culminated in the assassination of Amaziah, chose his 16-year-old son Uzziah (or Azariah) to succeed him.
11. Government by Regents:
The minority of the king involved something equivalent to a regency. As Jehoiada at first carried on the government for Joash, so Uzziah was at first under the tutelage of Zechariah (2 Chronicles 26:5), and the latter part of his reign was covered by the regency of his son Jotham. It is obvious that with the unstable dynasties of the north, such government by deputy would have been impracticable.
12. Period of Great Prosperity:
The reign of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26) was one of the most glorious in the annals of the Judean kingdom. The Philistines and southern Arabs, who had been so powerful in the reign of Jehoram, were subdued, and other Bedouin were held in check. The frontiers were strengthened with numerous castles. Now that Edom was again annexed, the Red Sea trade was resumed. Irrigation was attended to, and the agricultural resources of the country were developed. Uzziah also established a standing army, properly equipped and trained. Artillery, in the shape of catapults and other siege engines, was manufactured. It is obvious that in this reign we have advanced far beyond the earlier and ruder times.
13. Rise of Priestly Caste:
In this and the preceding reigns, we notice also how the priests are becoming a distinct and powerful caste. Zadok and Abiathar were no more than the domestic chaplains of David. The kings might at pleasure discharge the functions of the priest. But the all-powerful position of Jehoiada seems to have given the order new life; and in the latter part of the reign of Uzziah, king and priest come into conflict, and the king comes off second-best (2 Chronicles 26:16 ff).
14. Advent of Assyria:
Uzziah is the first king of Judah to be mentioned in the Assyrian annals. He was fighting against “Pul” in the years 742-740. The advent of the great eastern power upon the scene of Judean politics could end but in one way - as it was soon to do with Israel also. The reign of Jotham may be passed over as it coincided almost entirely with that of his father. But in the following reign we find Judah already paying tribute to Assyria in the year of the fall of Damascus and the conquest of the East-Jordan land, the year 734.
15. Judah a Protectorate:
During the regency of Jotham, the effeminacy and luxury of the Northern Kingdom had already begun to infect the Southern (Micah 1:9; Micah 6:16), and under the irresolute Ahaz the declension went on rapidly. This rapprochement in morals and customs did not prevent Israel under Pekah joining with Rezin of Syria against Judah, with no less an object than to subvert the dynasty by placing an Aramean on the throne (Isaiah 7:6). What the result might have been, had not Isaiah taken the reins out of Ahaz' hands, it is impossible to say. As it was, Judah felt the strain of the conflict for many a year. The country was invaded from other points, and many towns were lost, some of which were never recovered (2 Chronicles 28:17 ff). In despair Ahaz placed himself and his country under the protection of Assyria (2 Kings 16:7 ff).
16. Cosmopolitan Tendencies:
It was a part of the cosmopolitan tendencies of the time that the worship became tarnished with foreign innovations (2 Kings 16:10). The temple for the first time in its history was closed (2 Chronicles 28:24). Altars of Baal were set up in all the open spaces of Jerusalem, each representing some urban god (Jeremiah 11:13). About the closing of the temple Isaiah would not be greatly concerned. Perhaps it was his suggestion (compare Isa 1). The priests who were supreme in the preceding reigns had lost their influence: their place had been taken by the prophets. The introduction of Baalism, however, was no doubt due to Ahaz alone.
IV. Period of Decline.
1. Judah Independent:
The following reign - that of Hezekiah - was, perhaps as a result of the disappearance of the Northern Kingdom, a period of reformation. Isaiah is now supreme, and the history of the times will be found in his biography. It must have been with a sigh of relief that Hezekiah saw the Northern Kingdom disappear forever from the scene. The relations of the two countries had been too uniformly hostile to make that event anything but an omen for good. It was no doubt due to Isaiah that Hezekiah sought to recover the old independence of his country. Their patriotism went near to be their own undoing. Sennacherib invaded Palestine, and Hezekiah found himself shorn of everything that was outside the walls of Jerusalem. Isaiah's patriotism rose to the occasion; the invading armies melted away as by a miracle; Judah was once more free (2 Kings 18:13 ff).
2. Reform of Religion:
A curious result of Sennacherib's invasion was the disappearance of the high places - local shrines where Levitical priests officiated in opposition to those of the temple. When the Judean territories were limited to the city, these of necessity vanished, and, when the siege was over, they were not restored. They were henceforward regarded as illegal. It is generally held by scholars that this reform occurred later under Josiah, on the discovery of the “Book of the Law” by Hilkiah in the temple (2 Kings 22:8), and that this book was Deuteronomy. The high places, however, are not mentioned in the law book of Deuteronomy. The reform was probably the work of Isaiah, and due to considerations of morals.
3. Egypt and Judah:
The Judeans had always had a friendly feeling toward Egypt. When the great eastern power became threatening, it was to Egypt they turned for safety. Recent excavation has shown that the influence of Egypt upon the life and manners of Palestine was very great, and that that of Assyria and Babylonia was comparatively slight, and generally confined to the North. In the reign of Hezekiah a powerful party proposed an alliance with Egypt with the view of check-mating the designs of Assyria (2 Kings 17:4; Isaiah 30:2, Isaiah 30:3; Isaiah 31:1). Hezekiah followed Isaiah's advice in rejecting all alliances.
4. Traffic in Horses:
The commercial and other ties which bound Palestine to Egypt were much stronger than those between Palestine and the East. One of the most considerable of these was the trade in horses. This traffic had been begun by Solomon (1 Kings 10:28 f). The chief seat of the trade in Palestine was Lachish (Micah 1:13). In their nomadic state the Israelites had used camels and donkeys, and the use of the horse was looked upon with suspicion by the prophets (Deuteronomy 17:16; Zechariah 9:10). When the horse is spoken of in the Old Testament, it is as the chief weapon of the enemies of the nation (Exodus 15:1; Judges 5:22, etc.).
5. Reaction Under Manasseh:
On the death of Hezekiah, the nation reverted to the culture and manners of the time of Ahaz and even went farther than he in corrupt practices. Especially at this time human sacrifice became common in Israel (Micah 6:7). The influence for good of the prophets had gone (2 Kings 21). There is a curious story in 2 Chronicles 33:11 f that Manasseh was taken captive by the Assyrians, and, after spending some time in captivity in Babylon, reformed and was restored to his throne. His son, however, undid these reforms, and public discontent grew to such an extent that he was assassinated (2 Kings 21:19 ff).
6. Triumph of Reform Party:
Once more the tide turned in the direction of reform, and on this occasion it rose higher than ever before. The reformation under Josiah was never again wholly undone. The enthusiasm of the iconoclasts carried them far beyond the frontiers of Judah (2 Chronicles 34:6), for on this occasion they were backed up by the newly found “Book of the Law.” All boded well for a prosperous reign, but unforeseen disasters came from without. The Scythian invasion swept over Southwestern Asia (Jeremiah 1:14-16; Jeremiah 6:1, etc.). The storm passed, and hope rose higher than before, for the power of Assyria had been shattered forever.
7. Babylonia and Judah:
Already in 722, when Sargon seized the throne on the death of Shalmaneser, Babylonia had revolted, and crowned Marduk-baladan king (Isaiah 39:1). Hezekiah received a deputation from Babylonia (2 Kings 20:12 ff), no doubt in the hope of freeing himself from the Assyrian danger by such an alliance. The revolt of Merodach-Baladan was maintained for 12 years; then it was suppressed. There was, however, a second revolt of Babylonia on the accession of Sennacherib, Sargon's son, in 705, which went on till 691, and the events referred to in 2 Kings 20 may have happened at this time, for Hezekiah's reign seems to have ended prosperously.
8. End of Assyrian Empire:
Sennacherib was assassinated in 681 (Isaiah 37:38) and was succeeded by his son Esar-haddon, who rebuilt Babylon, razed to the ground by his father, and under whom the province remained quiet. In 674 hostilities with Egypt broke out, and that country was overrun, and Tirhakah (which see) was expelled in 670. Two years later, however, occurred the revolt of Egypt and the death of Esar-Haddon. Assur-bani-pal succeeded, and Egypt regained her independence in 660. The revolt of Babylonia, the incursion of the Scythians (Jeremiah 1:14 ff) and the death of Assur-bani-pal followed. Two more kings sat on the throne of Assyria, and then Nineveh was taken by the combined Scythians (Mandor) and Babylonians (Herod. i. 74; Nah; Zephaniah 2:13-15; Habakkuk 1:5 f).
9. After Scythian Invasion:
The Scythian tempest passed quickly, and when it was over the Assyrian peril was no more. Pharaoh-necoh seized the opportunity to avenge the injuries of his country by the invasion of the erstwhile Assyrian territories. Josiah, pursuing the policy of alliance with Babylonia inaugurated by Hezekiah, endeavored to arrest his progress. He was defeated and mortally wounded at Megiddo (Zechariah 12:11).
10. Judah Again Dependent:
By the foolhardy action of Josiah, Judah lost its independence. The people, indeed, elected Jehoahaz (Shallum) king, but he was immediately deposed and carried to Egypt by the Pharaoh (Jeremiah 22:10 ff; Ezekiel 19:3 f), who appointed Jehoiakim (Eliakim) as vassal-king. After the defeat of the Pharaoh at Carchemish, the old Hittite stronghold, by Nebuchadrezzar, Jehoiakim submitted, and Judah became a dependency of Babylon. There must have been some return of prosperity, for Jehoiakim is denounced for his luxury and extravagance and oppressive taxation (Jeremiah 22:13 ff), but the country was raided by the neighboring Bedouin (2 Kings 24:2), and Jehoiakim came to an untimely end (Jeremiah 22:19).
11. Prophets Lose Influence:
The prophets were no longer, as under Hezekiah, all-powerful in the state. The influence of Jeremiah was no doubt great, but the majority was against him. His program was both unpopular in itself and it had the fatal defect of being diametrically opposed to that of Isaiah, the patriot-politician (if such there be), who had saved the state from shipwreck. Isaiah had preached reliance upon the national God and through it the political independence of the nation. It was the sad duty of Jeremiah to advise the surrender of the national independence to the newly risen power of Babylon. (Jeremiah 21:4, Jeremiah 21:9; Jeremiah 38:2, etc.). Isaiah had held that the Holy City was impregnable (2 Kings 19:32); Jeremiah was sure that it would be taken by the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 32:24, Jeremiah 32:43). Events proved that each prophet was right for the time in which he lived.
12. The Deportations:
Jehoiakim was the only Judean king who was a vassal first to one overlord and then to another. Judah took a step downward in his reign. It was under him also that the first deportation of the Judeans occurred (Daniel 1:1-17). He was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin who, on account of a rebellion which closed the reign of his father, was ere long deported, along with the best of the nation (Jeremiah 22:24 ff; Ezekiel 19:5 ff). A 3rd son of Josiah, Mattaniah, was set on the throne under the title of Zedekiah. Against the advice of Jeremiah, this, the last king of Judah, declared himself independent of Babylon, and threw in his lot with Egypt under Pharaoh Hophra (Apries), thus breaking his oath of fealty (Ezekiel 17:15 ff). On the advance of the Chaldeans, Judah was deserted by her allies, the Edomites and Philistines (see Book Of Job), and soon only Lachish (Tell el-Hesy), Azekah (probably Tell Zakarua) and Jerusalem remained in the hands of Zedekiah. The siege of the city lasted two years. It was taken on the fatal 9th of Ab in the year 586. Zedekiah's family was put to the sword, and he himself was taken to Babylon. Egypt shared the fate of Judah, with whom she had been often so closely connected, and Hophra was the last of the Pharaohs.
The kingdom of Judah had lasted 480 years, counting from its commencement, exactly twice as long as the kingdom of Israel, counting from the disruption. No doubt this longer mary existence was due in the first place to the religious faith of the people. This is clear from the fact that the national religion not only survived the extinction of the nation, but spread far beyond its original territories and has endured down to the present day. But there were also circumstances which conspired to foster the growth of the nation in its earliest and most critical period. One of these was the comparative isolation and remoteness of the country. Neither the kingdom of Israel nor that of Judah is for a moment to be compared to those of Egypt and Assyria. Even the combined kingdom under David and Solomon hardly deserves that comparison; and separate, the Northern Kingdom would be about the size of New Hampshire and the Southern Kingdom about that of Connecticut. The smaller kingdom survived the larger because it happened to be slightly farther removed from the danger zone. Even had the two kingdoms held together, it is impossible that they could have withstood the expansion of Assyria and Babylonia on the one side and of Egypt on the other. The Egyptian party in Judean politics in the times of Isaiah and Jeremiah were so far in the right, that, if Judah could have maintained her independence in alliance with Egypt, these two countries combined might have withstood the power of Assyria or Babylon. But it is because this ancient race, tracing its descent from remote antiquity, preserved its religious, at the expense of its national independence, that its literature continues to mold much of the thought of Europe and America today.
See Kingdom Of Israel.