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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Judah Kingdom of

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When the territory of all the rest of Israel, except Judah and Benjamin, was lost to the kingdom of Rehoboam, a special single name was needed to denote that which remained to him; and almost of necessity the word Judah received an extended meaning, according to which it comprised not Benjamin only, but the priests and Levites, who were ejected in great numbers from Israel, and rallied round the house of David. At a still later time, when the nationality of the ten tribes had been dissolved, and every practical distinction between the ten and the two had vanished during the captivity, the scattered body had no visible head, except in Jerusalem, which had been re-occupied by a portion of Judah's exiles. In consequence the name Judah (or Jew) attached itself to the entire nation from about the epoch of the restoration. But in this article Judah is understood of the people over which David's successors reigned, from Rehoboam to Zedekiah. Under the article Israel the chronology of the two kingdoms has been discussed, which, however, was not carried below the capture of Samaria. In the lower part of the list we lose the check which the double line of kings afforded; but for the same reason the problem is simpler. The only difficulty encountered here rises out of the ages assigned to some of the kings of Judah. For this reason, in the following list, all their ages are inserted, so far as they are recorded. It has been thought sufficient to add Winer's chronology to the dates as given above in the article Israel.

Rehoboam

17

41

975

Abijah

3

957

*22

Asa

41

955

*22

Jehoshaphat

25

35

914

*22

[Jehoram ]

8

32

Jehoram alone

(35)

889

25

Ahaziah

1

22

885

17

[Queen Athaliah]

7

884

Jehoash

39?

7

878

22

Amaziah

29

25

838

22

Uzziah

53?

16

809

38

Jotham

16

25

757

43

Ahaz

16

20

741

22

Hezekiah

29

25

726

10

Manasseh

55

12

696

42

Amon

2

22

641

45

Josiah

31

8

639

16

Jehoahaz

¼

23

609

15

Jehoiakim, his brother

11

25?

609

13?

Jehoiachin

¼

18

598

18

Zedekiah, his father's brother

11

21

598

28

Zedekiah is deposed

588

The ages of Abijah and Asa at their accession not being given, the three first numbers in the last column are averages only, Rehoboam having been born 66 or 67 years before Jehoshaphat. A glance at the table is sufficient to show that various errors must have crept into the numbers, but it is now extremely difficult, if not impossible, to correct them.

When the kingdom of Solomon became rent with intestine war, it might have been foreseen that the Edomites, Moabites, and other surrounding nations would at once refuse their accustomed tribute, and become again practically independent and some irregular invasion of these tribes might have been dreaded. It was a mark of conscious weakness, and not a result of strength, that Rehoboam fortified 15 cities (), in which his people might find defense against the irregular armies of his roving neighbors. But a more formidable enemy came in, Shishak king of Egypt, against whom the fortresses were of no avail (), and to whom Jerusalem was forced to open its gates; and, from the despoiling of his treasures, Rehoboam probably sustained a still greater shock in its moral effect on the Moabites and Edomites, than in the direct loss: nor is it easy to conceive that he any longer retained the commerce of the Red Sea, or any very lucrative trade.

After, Jehoshaphat followed the calamitous affinity with the house of Ahab, and the massacres of both families. 'Under Jehoiada the priest, and Jehoash his pupil, no martial efforts were made; but Amaziah son of Jehoash, after hiring 100,000 Israelites to no purpose, made war on the Edomites, slew 10,000, and threw 10,000 more down from the top of their rock (; ). His own force in Judah, from 20 years old and upwards, was numbered at 300,000 choice men, able to handle spear and shield. His son Uzziah had 2600 military officers, and 307,500 men of war (). Ahaz lost, in a single battle with Pekah, 120,000 valiant men (), after the severe slaughter he had received from Rezin king of Syria; after which no further military strength is ascribed to the kings of Judah.

These figures have caused no small perplexity, and have suggested to some the need of conjectural emendation. It perhaps deserves remark, that in the book of Kings no numbers of such startling magnitude are found. The army ascribed to Rehoboam () is, indeed, as in Chronicles, 180,000 men; but if we explain it of those able to fight, the number, though certainly large, may be dealt with historically.

As the most important external relations of Israel were with Damascus, so were those of Judah with Edom and Egypt. Some revolution in the state of Egypt appears to have followed the reign of Shishak, Apparently the country must have fallen under the power of an Ethiopian dynasty, for the name of the Lubim, who accompanied Zerah in his attack on Asa, is generally regarded as proving that Zerah was from Sennaar, the ancient Meroe. But as this invasion was signally repulsed, the attempt was not repeated; and Judah enjoyed entire tranquility from that quarter until the invasion of Pharaoh Necho. In fact it may seem that this success assisted the reaction, favorable to the power of Judah, which was already begun, in consequence of a change in the policy of Damascus. Asa having bought, by a costly sacrifice, the serviceable aid of the Damascene king, Israel was soon distressed, and Judah became once more formidable to her southern neighbors. Jehoshaphat appears to have re-asserted the Jewish authority over the Edomites without war, and to have set his own viceroy over them (). Intending to resume the distant commerce which had been so profitable to Solomon, he built ships suitable for long voyages ('ships of Tarshish' as they are rightly called in ), but not having the advantage of Tyrian sailors, as Solomon had, he lost the vessels by violent weather before they had sailed. Upon this, Ahaziah, king of Israel, offered the service of his own mariners, probably from the tribe of Asher and others accustomed to the Mediterranean; but Jehoshaphat was too discouraged to accept his offer, and the experiment was never renewed by any Hebrew king. The Edomites, who paid only a forced allegiance, soon after revolted from Jehoram, and elected their own king (; ). At a later time they were severely defeated by Amaziah (), whose son, Uzziah, fortified the town of Elath, intending, probably, to resume maritime enterprise; but it remained a barren possession, and was finally taken from them by Rezin, in the reign of Ahaz (). The Philistines, in these times, seem to have fallen from their former greatness, their league having been so long dissolved. The most remarkable event in which they are concerned is the assault on Jerusalem, in the reign of Jehoram ().

It is strikingly indicative of the stormy scenes through which the line of David passed, that the treasures of the king and of the Temple were so often plundered or bargained away. First, under Rehoboam, all the hoards of Solomon, consecrated and common alike, were carried off by Shishak (). Two generations later, Asa emptied out to Benhadad all that had since accumulated 'in the house of Jehovah or in the king's house.' A third time, when Hazael had taken Gath, and was preparing to march on Jerusalem, Jehoash, king of Judah, turned him away by sending to him all 'that Jehoshaphat, Jehoram, Ahaziah and Jehoash himself had dedicated, and all the gold that was found in the treasures of the house of Jehovah and in the king's house' (). In the very next reign Jehoash, king of Israel, defeated and captured Amaziah, took Jerusalem, broke down the walls, carried off hostages, and plundered the gold and silver deposited in the temple and in the royal palace (). A fifth sacrifice of the sacred and of the royal treasure was made by Ahaz to Tiglath-pileser (). The act was repeated by his son Hezekiah to Sennacherib, who had demanded '300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold.' It is extraordinary, therefore, to find expressions used when Nebuchadnezzar took the city, which at first sight imply that Solomon's far-famed stores were still untouched ().

The severest shock which the house of David received was the double massacre which it endured from Jehu and from Athaliah. After a long minority, a youthful king, the sole surviving male descendant of his great-grandfather, and reared under the paternal rule of the priest Jehoiada, to whom he was indebted not only for his throne but even for his recognition as a son of Ahaziah, was not in a situation to uphold the royal authority. That Jehoash conceived the priests to have abused the power which they had gained, sufficiently appears in 2 Kings 12, where he complains that they had for twenty-three years appropriated the money, which they ought to have spent on the repairs of the temple. Jehoiada gave way; but we see here the beginning of a feud (hitherto unknown in the house of David) between the crown and the priestly order; which, after Jehoiada's death, led to the murder of his son Zachariah. The massacre of the priests of Baal, and of Athaliah, granddaughter of a king of Sidon, must also have destroyed cordiality between the Phoenicians and the kingdom of Judah; and when the victorious Hazael had subjugated all Israel and showed himself near Jerusalem, Jehoash could look for no help from without, and had neither the faith of Hezekiah nor a prophet like Isaiah to support him. The assassination of Jehoash in his bed by 'his own servants' is described in the Chronicles as a revenge taken upon him by the priestly party for his murder of 'the sons' of Jehoiada; and the same fate, from the same influence, fell upon his son Amaziah, if we may so interpret the words in : 'From the time that Amaziah turned away from following Jehovah they made a conspiracy against him,' etc. Thus the house of David appeared to be committing itself, like that of Saul, to permanent enmity with the priests. The wisdom of Uzziah, during a long reign, averted this collision, though a symptom of it returned towards its close. No further mischief from this cause followed, until the reign of his grandson, the weak and unfortunate Ahaz: after which the power of the kingdom, rapidly moldered away.

The struggle of the crown against (what we might call) the constitutional check of the priests, was perhaps the most immediate cause of the ruin of Judah. Ahaz was probably less guided by policy than by superstition, or by architectural taste, in erecting his Damascene altar (). But the far more outrageous proceedings of Manasseh seem to have been a systematic attempt to extirpate the national religion because of its supporting the priestly power; and the 'innocent blood very much,' which he is stigmatized for shedding (), was undoubtedly a sanguinary attack on the party opposed to his impious and despotic innovations. The storm which he had raised did not burst in his lifetime; but, two years after, it fell on the head of his son Amon; and the disorganization of the kingdom which his madness had wrought is commemorated as the cause of the Babylonish captivity (; ). It is also credible that the long-continued despotism had greatly lessened patriotic spirit; and that the Jewish people of the declining kingdom were less brave against foreign invaders than against kindred and neighbor tribes or civil opponents. Faction had become very fierce within Jerusalem itself (Ezekiel 22), and civil bloodshed was common. Wealth, where it existed, was generally a source of corruption, by introducing foreign luxury, tastes, manners, superstitions, immorality, or idolatry; and when consecrated to pious purposes, as by Hezekiah and Josiah, produced little more than a formal and exterior religion.

The appointment of Hilkiah to the office of high priest seems to mark the era at which (by a reaction after the atrocities of Manasseh and Amon) the purer priestly sentiment obtained its triumph over the crown. But the victory came too late. Society was corrupt and convulsed within, and the two great powers of Egypt and Babylon menaced it from without. True lovers of their God and of their country, like Jeremiah, saw that it was a time rather for weeping than for action; and that the faithful must resign themselves to the bitter lot which the sins of their nation had earned.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Judah Kingdom of'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/j/judah-kingdom-of.html.

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