Judah (Empire)

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The united kingdom of Israel dissolved after Solomon's death in 926 BC. In the northern kingdom of Israel ruled by Jeroboam I , with the capital Samaria (the blue-colored area) and the area of Rehoboam , the ruler of Judah, with the capital Jerusalem in the south (the ocher-colored area).

Judah ( Hebrew יְהוּדָה Jehūdāh ) was an Iron Age kingship in the eastern Mediterranean in the Judean Mountains around Jerusalem . According to the biblical representation, its foundation goes back to King David . Since the biblical texts are the only sources for a long time and their value for a historical evaluation is disputed, some sections of the history of Judah are in the dark. The conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II in 587 BC. Chr. Meant the end of statehood. The region became part of the Neo-Babylonian Empire , later in the Achaemenid Empire the Persian province of Yehud . It was not until the Maccabees that self-governing Jewish life returned to the region.



The tribal union (" Twelve Tribes of Israel ") appears in the stories of the Bible since the 2nd Book of Moses as a people "Israel" under unified leadership. However, he only became this people in the course of the settlement process in the cultivated land of Canaan , into which tribes of semi-nomads of different origins from around 1500 to 1000 BC. Infiltrated in the Late Bronze Age. The first non-biblical confirmation of this is provided by the "Israeli stele" of Pharaoh Merenptah (around 1210 BC). The settlement of Israelite tribes in the region of what is now Palestine has been around since about 1250 BC. Chr. Proven. The capture of the Canaanite city-states by Israelite nomads (at most a small part of whom had immigrated from Egypt), which are likely to form the historical core of the land grab reports, took place successively in the decades around 1100 BC. Chr.

The sources for this time before the founding of the state are not good, the information since the time of David is more precise, however, despite the many figures in the royal books, the exact date of the reigns remains uncertain. However, some events can be precisely determined for which the neighboring peoples have other written and archaeological sources, such as the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II.

In the time before the formation of Judah, Palestine was partly characterized by semi-nomadic segmentary societies in the mountains, and partly by small city-states in the plains. The settlement of the Mediterranean coast by the Philistines posed a threat to which the cumbersome alliance system could no longer respond to in a timely manner. They were looking for a general for the time of the fighting and finally found Saul from the tribe of Benjamin , who is said to have been the first king of the empire, at least in Israel, which later became the northern empire. There is no definite information about the beginning and duration of Saul's reign, but it seems to have been dominated by military campaigns and so it came to an end after a lost battle against the Philistines ( 1 Sam 31  EU ). His reign was before 1000 BC. Chr. To the end.

He was replaced by David from the tribe of Judah . David is said to have been around the year 1004 BC. First he was anointed king over the tribe of Judah in Hebron ( 2 SamEU ), then established a local kingship in Judah (later the southern kingdom). According to the biblical testimony, he then succeeded in conquering the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and from there to ascend to king over northern Israel. According to the great empire hypothesis , he was able to expand his power base, permanently push back the Philistines, structure a state and establish a dynasty. Under David the state gained its greatest expansion. There was fierce rivalry for succession among his sons. Finally Solomon ( 1 KingsEU ) prevailed. Solomon ruled from around 965, was able to build up the country economically and consolidated the importance of Jerusalem by building the so-called first temple based on the Phoenician model with the help of Hiram of Tire . Under Solomon there was compulsory labor and high taxes for the building of palaces and temples, which brought discontent with it.

Division into northern Reich Israel and southern Reich Judah under Rehoboam

After Solomon's death in 926 BC According to the biblical tradition, the representatives of the northern tribes came to the heir to the throne Rehoboam for the coronation in Shechem. They asked for relief from the labor, but Rehoboam responded with a gross insult: "My little finger is supposed to be thicker than my father's loin" ( 1 Kings 12:10  Lut ). After this insult the tribal leaders obedience and the ten northern tribes of denied Israelites fell away from the dynasty of David and then formed the northern kingdom of Israel under the leadership of Jeroboam . Attempts to restore power in the north failed, a sergeant was stoned and the king himself could only save himself by fleeing quickly. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained loyal to Rehoboam, who together formed the kingdom of Judah with the capital Jerusalem . The new borders of Judah lay in the north before Bet-El , in the east on the Dead Sea , in the south on the Negev desert and in the west it bordered the cities of the Philistines on the coast.

Historical sources and archaeological findings indicate that the northern empire and the tribes that settled there strengthened after 925 BC. BC sure. Her center was initially Shechem with the most important cult, later Samaria . There were also other places of worship, syncretism and polytheism , and in addition to the Israelite tribes also tribes of other ethnic groups. The tribes in the southern kingdom of Judah still lived largely nomadic and gathered around the temple of Jerusalem to form a weak state that had to assert itself against the overwhelming power of Egypt and the attacks of the Philistines. With the kings of Judah it is noticeable that the government data always mentions the king's mother by name, but not with the kings of Israel. Many researchers conclude from this that it was probably a political office of the Queen Mother, although the exact task and weight of this office is nowhere really clear.

Shortly after the founding of Judah, the Egyptian Pharaoh Sheschonq I invaded Palestine, destroyed settlements in the Saul tribal area and plundered temples and palaces in Jerusalem, and Rehoboam had to pay tribute to the Egyptians. His son Abijah was only king for a short time.

King Asa and King Jehoshaphat

Under Rehoboam's grandson Asa (908 to 868 BC), according to the Bible, the old Canaanite places of worship disappeared from Judah, because he prescribed the belief in Yahweh for the entire population . Asa ruled for 41 years. Under Asa, the war between Israel and Judah, which lasted almost until the end of Israel and flared up again and again, broke out. Asa bribed Israel's northern neighbor, Ben-Hadad I of Aram-Damascus, with treasures from the Jerusalem palace and temple, so that the latter invaded northern Israel and the Israelite king Basha had to stop fighting Judah. Under Asa's son Joschafat (868 to 847 BC) there was peace with Israel again, he even went to war against Aram together with Ahab of Israel and a little later with Ahab's son Joram of Israel (851 to 845 BC) against the Moabites , so that it can be assumed that Jehoshaphat was a vassal of Israel. He also conquered the Edomite port city of Ezion-Geber on the Red Sea, which enabled trade with the rich land of Ofir , but the Judean ships crashed into Ezion-Geber.

Joram, Ahasia and the coup d'état by Ataliah

Jehoshaphat strengthened his relationship with Israel through the dynastic marriage of his son and successor Joram of Judah to the Israelite princess Atalja , who was a sister or daughter of Ahab ( 2 Kings 8:18  EU ). From now on one can speak of a united Israel through dynastic union, which was dominated by the Omrids from Samaria. Jehoshaphat's grandson Ahaziah (845 BC), who was a descendant of both dynasties, Israel and Judas, was killed by the Israelite usurper Jehu after he and Joram of Israel had suffered a defeat against Hazael of Damascus . While Jehu took over the kingship in Israel, Ahaziah's mother Ataliah had all of Ahaziah's descendants killed and was thus the ruler, only his son Joasch was hidden in the temple and thus saved. After seven years of reign Atalja was executed by the royal bodyguard on the orders of the high priest Jojada and Joash was made king.

Joasch and Amazja

Joash became king when he was only seven years old under the protection of the high priest Jojada. He reformed the cult and had the Jerusalem temple renovated, but fell victim to an assassination attempt after forty years of reign. His successor and son Amaziah (801–787 BC) defeated the Edomites living south of Judah, but suffered a heavy defeat against Joasch of Israel, who then had parts of the Jerusalem city wall razed. For unknown reasons he was murdered in Lachisch . In any case, the murderers could not seize power, but the people made Amaziah's son Azariah (787-736 BC) king.

Azariah and Iotam

During the 52-year rule of Azariah, often called Usiah, peace returned and Judah prospered in agriculture and trade. Material prosperity increased. Azariah became a leper and lived in an isolated house of his own and so his son Jotam took over the reign many years before his death. The Edomite port of Ezion-Geber on the Red Sea was restored and the old trade routes from the Red Sea to Phenicia up again were used. Among his descendants, however, old disputes flared up with the Philistines who settled on the coast , and the ports were lost. At the same time, Judah came under increasing pressure from the strengthened Neo-Assyrian Empire.


Usija's grandson Ahaz (741 to 725 BC) sought peace with the Assyrians, while Israel and Aram-Damascus wanted to take action against the Assyrians together. In 735 Ahaz paid tribute to the Assyrians. Two years later came the so-called Syrian-Ephraimite War (733 BC), in which the Israelites and Arameans wanted to put the anti- Assyrian Aramean Ben Tabeal on the Judean throne in order to win Judah as an ally in an anti-Assyrian alliance. They besieged Jerusalem in vain, but Ahaz submitted to the Assyrians and bribed them with the looted Jerusalem temple treasures, so that they conquered large parts of Israel in the same year and Damascus a year later. Ahas' voluntary submission to the Assyrians had decisive consequences, especially for the cult in the Jerusalem temple: Ahas had an altar built according to the Aramaic model in front of the temple, while old altars were dismantled and the temple complexes were redesigned.

Even in this early history of Judah, based on the tradition of the Bible, it becomes clear that the northern kingdom was the more powerful state, and that Judah with Jerusalem tried several times to defend itself against the superior power of the north, sometimes even falling under the hegemony of the northern kings. It always revived when the north had been weakened by external enemies. That the south pulled the strings is easy to identify as a pious legend. Judah could only become an independent, strong state when the northern empire and the capital Samaria were destroyed by the Assyrians in 722.


During the reign of Hezekiah (725 to 697 BC) Israel was completely conquered and destroyed by the Assyrians . So only Judah remained as an independent remnant state of the former great empire of Israel. Like Ahaz, Hezekiah first tried to establish good relations with the growing Assyrians. He was able to expand the state of Judah and also reversed some of the actions of Ahaz in the temple. But when 713 BC BC the Philistine city-state Ashdod dared to revolt against Assyria, Judah joined alongside other states. When the uprising in 711 BC Judah escaped annihilation through swift submission. Hezekiah built the famous Hezekiah tunnel in Jerusalem in order to be able to supply the city with water even during siege.

When the Assyrian king Sargon II died in 705 , Hezekiah once again dared to rebel against the mighty Assyrians under the protection of the Egyptians. The new Assyrian king Sennacherib was able to defeat the Egyptians in 701, occupied all of Judah and began the siege of Jerusalem. Once again, Hezekiah bought himself free with a heavy toll. Hezekiah only remained in control of the Judean mountains, the rest of Judah came under the rule of the Assyrians. As a result, the Assyrian cult introduced by Ahaz and temporarily eliminated by Hezekiah had to be reintroduced in Jerusalem. Probably in the middle of the 7th century, however, Hezekiah's successors succeeded in expanding Judean territory again. Hezekiah also had contacts with King Marduk-apla-iddina II of Babylonia , called Merodach-Baladan in the Bible.

Manasseh and Amon

After Hezekiah, Manasseh ruled for 55 years , so he had a very long reign. However, the biblical sources have little concrete information to report about him, although his rule is portrayed in an extremely negative way. So he reintroduced a number of old cults and built various altars. He is also said to have shed a lot of innocent blood. His son and successor Amon soon fell victim to a conspiracy, but the conspirators were also killed.


There was a last heyday in Judah under King Joschiah (639 to 609 BC), he is also called Josiah. Under his rule and the influence of the prophet Jeremiah , all differing Hebrew, Canaanite, Aramaic or Assyrian cults were radically exterminated and the Yahweh cult in Jerusalem made binding for all residents, and the temple comprehensively renovated. Under Joschiah a holy book is found in the temple, which scholars often associate with Deuteronomy or its preliminary stage (Urdeuteronomy). Josiah's actions are rated extremely positively in the biblical tradition and his measures fit well with the descriptions in Deuteronomy.

In the meantime the threat of Assyria in the north by a growing Babylon disappeared . In 612 the Assyrian capital, Nineveh, was conquered by the Babylonians. Joschiah in the kingdom of Judah took advantage of the Assyrian weakness and recaptured some parts of northern Israel. There were disputes with Egypt , which feared a strengthening Mesopotamia and wanted to come to the aid of the Assyrians. Joschiah, however, refused to allow the Egyptians free passage through Judah. Joschija was taken by the Egyptians in 609 BC. Killed in battle near Megiddo , his descendants and the aristocracy were deported by the victorious Egyptians.

Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and the submission to the Babylonians

His son Jehoahaz ruled only three months before he was abducted by Pharaoh Necho II . Necho used his brother Eljakim for this, whom he renamed as Jojakim as a sign of his power and from whom he demanded a heavy toll. 605 BC However, the allied Egyptians and Assyrians suffered a crushing defeat at Karkemish by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar II. Jehoiakim had to submit to the Babylonians, but soon fell back again. In a new army of the Babylonians he was defeated and his son Jehoiachin (598 to 597 BC) was left with unconditional surrender after three months of his rule. The temple and the palace were looted and in a first deportation the colonels, soldiers, craftsmen and many educated people were brought into exile in Babylon . Zedekiah, the uncle or brother of Jehoiachin, was installed as the last king as vassal of Babylon.


Once again under Zedekiah (Zidkija) (597 to 587 BC), Judah tried an uprising against Babylon under Egyptian influence, but it failed all along the line. All the cities of Judah including Jerusalem, which opened on about July 29, 587 BC. BC capitulated, fell into the hands of the enemy, the royal family and all remaining aristocrats, educated people and craftsmen were exiled to Babylon .

Judah survived the northern kingdom of Israel by 136 years, but stopped in 586 BC. Chr. Also to exist. The Babylonian, later Persian province of Jahud was then established in the area of ​​Judas ( see also: List of governors of Judas ). 582 BC BC Judeans were again deported to Babylon, so that a total of 4600 people were deported. 539 BC The Persian king Cyrus II conquered Babylon, a year later he allowed the Judeans to return to Judah.

See also


  • Gösta W. Ahlström: The History of Ancient Palestine from the Palaeolithic Period to Alexander's Conquest. With a contribution by Gary O. Rollefson, edited by Diana Edelman. JSOT.S 146. Sheffield 1993.
  • Angelika Berlejung : History and religious history of ancient Israel. In: Gertz, Jan Christian u. a. (Ed.): Basic information Old Testament: An introduction to literature, religion and history of the Old Testament. Göttingen 2006; 3 2009.
  • Herbert Donner : History of the people of Israel and its neighbors in outline. Part 1: From the beginnings to the state formation period. , Göttingen 1984; Part 2: From the royal times to Alexander the Great , Göttingen 1986; in: Old Testament German, supplementary series, vol. 4/1 and 4/2.
  • Thomas Willi: Juda, Jehud, Israel. Studies on the self-image of Judaism in Persian times . Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 1995, ISBN 978-3-16-146478-2 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Israel Finkelstein: The forgotten kingdom. Israel and the hidden origins of the Bible. CH Beck, Munich 2014.
  2. Martin Noth: History of Israel. 8th edition, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1976, ISBN 978-3-525-52120-5 , p. 111.
  3. Historically, the question of whether the tribe of Benjamin was part of the division of the Kingdom of Israel after the death of King Solomon in 926 BC cannot be clearly clarified. With the northern tribes separated from the Kingdom of Judah or not. According to 1 Kings 11:35  EU , only ten tribes go into secession; but this could have been based on only eleven tribes of Israel, since the tribe of Levi was landless. According to 1 Kings 12.21  EU , Benjamin and Judah oppose the division. In any case, the Benjaminist area remained controversial between the northern and southern empires ( 1 Kings 15.16ff  EU ). Benjamin is with Judah in Esr 1.5  EU ( Book Esra ) a. ö. mentioned among the returnees from the Babylonian exile and should therefore have belonged to the Kingdom of Judah before.
  4. ^ Gunneweg, Antonius HJ: History of Israel up to Bar Kochba. Stuttgart (Kohlhammer) 1972, p. 89.