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ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF:

In the article People of Israel the history of the Northern Kingdom in its wider relations is briefly set forth; here the details will be more fully sketched. The history may be divided into four periods. The first was a period of confusion and semianarchy; the second, a time of national consolidation and heroic self-defense; the third, a period marked by extremes of misfortune and success; and the fourth, a term of humiliation by the Assyrians, ending in national extinction.

First Period. —Jeroboam I. to Omri (934-886 B.C.):

The kingdom during this period was in the formative stage: it was, in fact, continuing the political experiences of the time of Saul. The territory of Israel outside of Judah and southern Benjamin had not been organized by David and Solomon except for purposes of taxation and statute labor. It was not a federation of tribes, but virtually a combination of districts, the region north of Esdraelon being especially loose in its attachment. The inhabitants of the territory called "Israel" had not before acted together except in rebellion against the house of David. The genius of David had placed Judah half a century ahead of the rest of the land, in both political and military affairs.

Dynastic Changes.

Accordingly in the inevitable wars with Judah, Israel was at first at a disadvantage. Its reverses increased the original confusion and discontent. The rule of Ephraim became unpopular; and Jeroboam's son Nadab (913) was slain by a usurper, Baasha of Issachar (911). The northern districts needed especial protection; for the Arameans of Damascus were beginning their fateful border attacks.

Baasha fixed his capital at Tirzah, nearer his own home, and made a treaty with Damascus. His measures of concentration enabled him to assert the natural superiority of northern Israel and to establish himself firmly on the border of, Judah. With costly gifts King Asa of Judah induced the Arameans to break with Baasha, and to invade the territory of Israel. The result was the loss to Israel of fertile lands northwest and west of the Sea of Galilee, and the abandonment by Baasha of his southern vantage-ground. The dynasty of Baasha was soon overthrown. His son Elah (888) was slain in a military conspiracy; and after the downfall of two pretenders,Omri, the general of the army, was made king by his soldiers.

Second Period. Policy and Success of Omri. —Omri to Jehu (886-842):

Omri chose a new capital, Samaria, the strongest site for defense, in central Palestine. Under him the fratricidal war with Judah was changed to friendship based on common interest: and Judah became a stanch ally, almost a vassal, of Israel. Alliance with Tyre was cemented by a marriage between Omri's son Ahab and Jezebel, the daughter of the Tyrian king. Gilead was held with a firm hand against Damascus on the north and against the Moabites on the south. But west of the Jordan the Arameans were still predominant; and Omri was forced to concede an open market to them in Samaria (I Kings xx. 34). Israel, now narrowing to Ephraim, Jezreel, and Gilead, was being consolidated.

Ahab (875) carried out strenuously his father's policy. His association with Tyre was of material but not of religious advantage to Israel. The cult of the Phenician Baal and Astarte could not be reconciled with the worship of Yhwh; besides, it ministered to lust and luxury. Ahab and Jezebel thus provoked the wrath of the prophet Elijah, whose crusade against the house of Omri was further inspired by Ahab's spoliation and murder of a freeholder of Jezreel. Yet Ahab was a valiant defender of Israel against the growing power of Damascus, with which he was almost constantly at war. On the whole, he was successful; and by the peace of Aphek (855) he revoked the concessions of his father (I Kings xx.). Next year he was actually to be found with Benhadad II. of Damascus as one of many allies fighting against the Assyrians, who under Shalmaneser II. were threatening Palestine as well as Syria. But in 853 war with Damascus broke out afresh. Ahab, who had Jehoshaphat of Judah as an ally, was slain in battle at Ramoth in Gilead.

Fall of the House of Omri.

Ahab's son Ahaziah sickened and died soon after his accession; and his place was taken by his brother Joram (853). The war with Damascus was prosecuted vigorously. Ahab's policy was continued, and Jezebel still promoted the worship of her Baal. The prophet Elisha, at the head of the partizans of Yhwh, now decided upon a coup d'état; and at his instigation Jehu, an officer of the army, rose against the royal house, put Joram and Jezebel to death, and carried out on his own account a murderous proscription against all their relatives as well as against the priests of the Baal.

Third Period. —Jehu to Menahem (842-741):

Jehu, having cleared the way to the throne, found himself at once face to face with Hazael of Damascus, who a short while before had also made himself king by the assassination of his master. To Secure himself Jehu sent many rich presents to Shalmaneser of Assyria. This, however, availed him nothing. The Assyrians had made frequent expeditions against Damascus, and thereby had greatly helped Israel—perhaps, indeed, had saved it from utter destruction; but after 839 Shalmaneser appeared no more in Syria, and Hazael had his way in Israel and Judah. Jehu's reign was thus made utterly inglorious; and his son Jehoahaz (815) was, if possible, still further reduced by the power of Damascus, so that the vassal state was allowed to maintain only a nominal guard of chariots and horsemen.

But deliverance was granted when most sorely needed. The Assyrians again came against Damascus after the death of Hazael (803); and under Joash (799), son of Jehoahaz, Israel gradually revived. In 797 Damascus was captured by the Assyrians, and for two generations remained innocuous. The Assyrians soon retired; and, freed from the double danger, Israel still further revived, till Jeroboam II. (783), son of Joash, brought it to a height of power and prosperity never before known. Indeed, for a time, the old ideal boundaries both east and west of the Jordan were maintained. But the glory was external and short-lived. The moral causes of decay are shown in the prophecies of Amos and Hosea. Jeroboam's son Zachariah (742) had scarcely begun to reign when a usurper, Shallum, put him to death, he in his turn being summarily disposed of by an army officer, Menahem.

Fourth Period. Vassalage, Revolt, and Ruin. —Menahem to Hoshea (741-722):

In the time of Menahem, Israel had at last to deal directly with the Assyrians, who under Tiglathpileser III. were now beginning their final era of conquest. In 738 he bought them off for a thousand talents of silver. His reign was brief, and his son Pekahiah, after ruling little more than a year, was slain by his general Pekah (735). In 734 the Assyrians returned. To cope with them Pekah made an alliance with Damascus. The Assyrians annexed Galilee and Damascus, dethroned Pekah, and put an intriguer, Hoshea, in his place. Over the central remnant Hoshea reigned as an Assyrian vassal till in 724 he was incited to revolt by Egypt under the Ethiopian dynasty. Samaria was soon placed under siege, and at the end of 722 was taken. Of the little kingdom 27,290 people were deported, and it was made an Assyrian province.

Bibliography:
  • See Israel.
E. G. H. J. F. McC.
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