Background and Initial Formation
King Solomon died and left his son to rule over the United Kingdom of Israel. However, the Upper Kingdom, which was occupied by the northern tribes, rebelled under the leadership of Jeroboam against Rehoboam the son of Solomon. The rule of Solomon left a legacy of hard taxes and forced labor for the northern tribes, and this is what was said to have compelled them to rebel against Rehoboam. This was the beginning of a seemingly endless war between the two former allies. The introduction of the "one God system" of beliefs also caused much conflict, as many kings in the north still practiced idolatry left behind by the Canaanites and others. Rehoboam built walls and fortified Judah but, in his fifth year as king, Egypt attacked and subjugated his kingdom as a vassal state.
Rise To Power And Accomplishments
Upon Rehoboam's death, his son, Abijah, became King of Judah. Abijah began a military campaign against Israel which resulted in the death of 500,000 Israelites, subjugating Israel thereafter. After Abijah's death, his son Asa took over next, and revamped the fortified cities of Judah. His reign was marked by peace and prosperity for 35 years, until the Ethiopian King came and attacked Judah. Asa was, however, able to defeat the Ethiopian King and save his people from a conquest. Jehoshaphat succeeded Asa as King of Judah, and made peace with the Northern Israelite tribes. That peace was broken as well, and Jehoshaphat went on to other wars. Jehoram, his successor, was not so lucky, as his family was abducted by attacking hordes of Philistines.
Challenges and Controversies
The Bible records the Kingdom of Judah as immense and powerful, though many archaeologists have challenged that idea. In fact, archaeological digs have showed that Judah was likely but a small tribal community. There is also the doubtfulness in the identification of it as a settlement in the late 11th Century BCE as that of Judah. Academic scholars studying the Kingdom of Judah after the fall of the unified Kingdom of Israel state that the narrative in the Hebrew Bible about Yahweh's anger over the idolatry in Judah at that time was not accurate. The Hebrew Bible states that the ancient Kings of Judah and Israel were punished by Yahweh for failing to stop the worship of many gods at that time, though historical records and archaeological findings place their religious practices in an ambiguous light.
Decline and Demise
The end of Judah came when Zedekiah, the appointed King of Judah and brother of the late Jehoiakim, revolted against his benefactor, Nebuchadnezzar II of Babylon, and returned his allegiance to the Egyptian Pharaohs. Before Zedekiah, Jehoiakim refused to pay tribute to the Babylonian King, and was promptly carted off to Babylon while all his sons were killed. This tragic event ended the Kingdom of Judah. The end truly came with the abandonment of the city by its forlorn and dejected citizens. Jerusalem was razed to the ground and its temple treasures taken off as spoils of conquest to Babylon. The city became a ghost city until the 7th Century. However, those among its population who may have escaped persecution from the Babylonian invaders moved slowly to Benjamin, a capital city of an Israelite tribe.
Historical Significance and Legacy
Judah was totally abandoned after the city was looted and destroyed by the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar II. Several of the Kings of Judah will always be remembered as the "bad" kings who broke their covenant with Yahweh. As a result, God left them unprotected to be conquered by the Babylonians, and then forced to suffer for generations afterwards. In Judaism's teachings, it could be said that Yahweh is a forgiving God nonetheless, for in the year 539 BCE the Persian Achaemenids allowed the Hebrew descendants of those taken from the Kingdom of Judah to return to their progenitors' native lands and rebuild the Jewish temple there. That year was also the fall of the Babylonian Empire at the hands of the arguably more tolerant and benevolent Persian Achaemenids.