The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
Division and Conflicts
According to those who told the stories of the Hebrew kings, the United Monarchy did not outlast the reign of Solomon and there were already hints that the ‘unity’ was only on the surface, for example, the disaffection of the northern tribes which led to the rebellion of Sheba. Solomon's son Rehoboam was accepted as king in Judah, and went to Shechem to meet a gathering of the northern Israelites. Jeroboam, who had returned from Egypt, led the demands that Rehoboam should lessen the burdens placed on them by Solomon, but Rehoboam refused and was forced to flee to Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 12: 1–18 ). The biblical narrator, writing from a southern Judahite perspective states, ‘So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day’ (1 Kgs. 12: 19 ). Shechem became the first capital of the northern kingdom of Israel; but whereas in Judah Jerusalem was both the political and religious centre of the kingdom, in Israel Dan and Bethel were established as national shrines by Jeroboam (1 Kgs. 12: 29 ). At some point Tirzah became the capital of Israel. The mention of Jeroboam's wife coming to Tirzah (1 Kgs. 14: 17 ) may imply that this happened during his reign. Certainly Baasha is said to have lived in Tirzah (1 Kgs. 15: 21 ). Subsequently there was another shift of capital to Samaria in the reign of Omri (see below).
The biblical account recalls that, in the fifth year of Rehoboam's reign, Pharaoh Shishak I (Shoshenq) attacked Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 14: 25–6 ). In the record of his campaign which Shishak had inscribed on the walls of the temple of Amon at Thebes (Karnak), he listed more than 150 towns which he had conquered in the area of Judah and Israel, including Megiddo. A fragment of a limestone stele was found at Megiddo, bearing Shishak's royal cartouches. In addition to external invasion, there are references to friction between Israel and Judah. According to 2 Chronicles 13: 19 , Rehoboam's son Abijah (Abijam) took Bethel, Jeshanah, and Ephron and their surrounding villages from Jeroboam. Jeroboam's son, Nadab, was killed by Baasha while Nadab and the Israelite forces were besieging Gibbethon (1 Kgs. 15: 27 ). Asa had become king of Judah, and the biblical narrator reports, ‘There was war between Asa and King Baasha of Israel all their days’ (1 Kgs. 15: 16 ). In preparation for his war with Judah, Baasha fortified Ramah, 5 miles (8 km) north of Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 15: 17 ). But Asa hired the support of King Ben‐hadad of Damascus who invaded Israel and conquered several cities in the far north (Ijon, Dan, and Abel‐beth‐maacah), the territory around Chinnereth and the region of Naphtali (1 Kgs. 15: 18–20 ). Asa strengthened Judah's border, apparently using the very stones which Baasha had been using at Ramah to fortify Mizpah and Geba (1 Kgs. 15: 22 ). In the account of his reign in Chronicles, Asa is credited with the defeat of a huge force led by Zerah the Ethiopian (or Cushite) in the Valley of Zephathah at Mareshah (2 Chr. 14: 9–15 ). Baasha's son, Elah, was killed at Tirzah by Zimri. When news of this reached the commander of the Israelite troops, Omri, at Gibbethon, he went to Tirzah, and besieged the city. Zimri took his own life and, after the removal of a rival claimant (Tibni) Omri took the throne (1 Kgs. 16: 8–23 ).