Bible Time Period: Divided Kingdom
Israel split into rival kingdoms and fell into idolatry: Help me to choose your kingship over other loves.
Welcome to the third month of the 90-day Bible challenge! We’re coming to the home stretch as far as time goes, and things are going to speed up as six time periods remain. It’s worth taking a few moments to get our bearings in the Story.
During the Royal Kingdom period, Saul united Israel under a single ruler, then David expanded the kingdom and Solomon built it up. At the height of its glory, Israel must have seemed like a near-fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham: they possessed most of the strategic land of Canaan and were in a position to bless the surrounding nations. God dwelt among them in a magnificent temple in Jerusalem. Their king was the wisest and wealthiest man on earth. The nation was blessed and the people prospered. Most of all, God had promised to establish David’s throne — and his line through Solomon — forever. What could go wrong?
What indeed. At the close of that period, we read that God promised to tear the bulk of the kingdom from Solomon’s son because of Solomon’s sin. The resulting split will launch Israel into the period of the Divided Kingdom. The first few chapters you read will frame the entire period: The ten tribes to the north will rebel against Solomon’s son and reject his rule over them. The result will be two separate kingdoms. The one to the south will be called Judah; it will be ruled over by kings in David’s line from the royal city of Jerusalem. The breakaway kingdom to the north, called Israel, will be ruled over by a succession of dynasties from its capital, Samaria. Elsewhere in the world, the balance of power will shift from Egypt to Assyria around 900 BC. Take note when you see Assyria mentioned; it and successive powers to the north of Canaan will have a dramatic impact on the future history of God’s people.
The story of the Divided Kingdom is told in 1 King 12-22 and in 2 Kings. You will notice that after describing the division itself, the narrative jumps back and forth between Israel and Judah so that some sense of chronology is maintained. The account is organized according to the reigns of the many kings. Each time you read that someone new is on the throne, pay attention to whether the king is of Judah (southern kingdom – David’s royal line – Jerusalem) or Israel (north – various dynasties – Samaria). The distinction is important because it is the southern kingdom, Judah, and its royal line through which the promised messiah will come.
If you have trouble keeping the kingdoms straight, you might find it helpful to draw a small crown next to the start of the reign of each king of Judah. But don’t worry about remembering all the details. The first time through, it is enough to get the flavor of what is going on in each of the two kingdoms. Under each reign: do they follow God, or not? What is the result?
What dilemma does the location of Jerusalem pose for Jeroboam? How does he solve it and with what result?
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