Why Two Kingdoms?

People frequently become confused between the northern and southern kingdoms. Although both were Jewish, only one was Davidic.

Originally, all the tribes of Israel were united throughout the reigns of Saul, David, and David’s son Solomon. The united kingdom was called Israel.

However, despite all Solomon’s wisdom, he forsook God and began serving pagan deities. So God waited until Solomon died, then He used the foolishness of Solomon’s son King Rehoboam to divide the kingdom around 922 B.C. (1 Ki. 11:9–13). The 10 northern tribes (Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun) became the northern kingdom, using the name Israel. The tribe of Judah (David’s tribe) and the small tribe of Benjamin became the southern kingdom, using the name Judah.

Originally, the Levites were scattered throughout all the tribes; but after the division, most ended up in Judah, where the Temple stood.

Judah was the Davidic Kingdom, and all its kings were descendants of David. Israel had a string of murderers and usurpers as kings, including Ahab; and none was a descendant of David. Eight of Judah’s kings were righteous; none of Israel’s kings was righteous.  

Jerusalem, which David made the capital of the united kingdom around 1000 B.C., continued as the capital of the southern kingdom until Judah was captured by Babylon in 586 B.C. Samaria was the capital of the northern kingdom.

By the time the prophet Jeremiah arrived on the scene at 627 B.C., the northern kingdom had already been swept away by Assyria. Twenty-two years after Jeremiah began prophesying, the Babylonians subjugated the southern kingdom and began deporting Judah’s best and brightest to Babylon.

By the time Babylon burned Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 B.C., it had become a world power. So all the Israelites previously captured by Assyria fell under Babylonian dominion. When Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian empire in 539 B.C., all the Jews captured by both Babylon and Assyria became subjects of Medo-Persia, thus making it possible for Jewish people from all the tribes to return to their land when King Cyrus of Persia released them from captivity in 538 B.C.

Click here for a map of the divided kingdoms.

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