Topics: MIDDLE EAST - Israel


Israel and Judah - Timeline

c. 1300–1020 BC


c. 1300–1200

. The biblical tradition traces the tribes of Israel back to the time of the patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), who came from Mesopotamia to Canaan, living there as seminomads. Some scholars place the patriarchs in the context of the Amorite invasions in the 19th and 18th centuries, others in the Aramean migrations of the 14th to 11th centuries. Another biblical tradition details the migration of the Israelites from serfdom in the eastern Delta of Egypt under Moses and Aaron. The relationship of these two traditions to each other, and to the archaeological record, is problematic, and the history of Israel obscure, until the Conquest of Canaan sometime in the 13th century. It is unclear if the Israelite conquest was a sudden invasion or a gradual infiltration. In any case, the Israelites adopted the local Canaanite language, and to some extent, religion and customs. The first dated attestation of the People of Israel in Canaan is the Merneptah Stele (c. 1220)

1224–1204 Merneptah defeated an incursion of Libu (Libyans) and Sea Peoples at the Battle of Piyer (1220). Some of these Sea Peoples, who had destroyed the Hittite Empire and ravaged the Near East, might be identified with later Mediterranean peoples: the Akiyawash (Achaeans), Turush (Etruscans), Luku (Lycians), and Sharden (Sardinians). The Merneptah Stele records a successful campaign in Palestine which defeated, among others, the people of Israel, their first datable mention in history. The 19th Dynasty ended in a series of short, confused reigns. The final ruler was a woman, Queen Tawosre (1194–1186), who took the throne with the name Sitre (“Daughter of Ra”).

c. 1200–1020 BC

. The Book of Judges records a story of conflicts between the Israelites and the surrounding Canaanites, Midianites, and Ammonites, in which the Israelite tribes joined together under a judge (shophet), primarily a military position. In the course of the 11th century, the Philistines united under the king of Gath and began an aggressive campaign of conquest against Israel. These attacks culminated around 1050, when the central shrine of the Israelites at Shiloh was destroyed and the Ark of the Covenant taken as booty. Around 1020, the last of the judges, Samuel, was anointed Saul as king of Israel in order to better resist the Philistines.

c. 1020–930 BC


c. 1020–1000

. Saul's kingship was limited, and his main title was not melech “king” but nagid “military commander.” Saul's authority was more charismatic than institutional, and the tribal elders and the prophets (nabi'im) sometimes opposed him. Saul was successful for a time in his wars against the Philistines but was defeated and killed by them at the Battle of Gilboa (c. 1000). Saul's son Ishbaal ruled for a short period but was then assassinated, perhaps at the instigation of the next king, David.

c. 1000–965 BC

THE REIGN OF KING DAVID. A minor noble from the tribe of Judah, David fought in Saul's army but quarreled with the king and withdrew with his clan into the Judean desert. There he operated as a bandit-chief and eventually became a vassal of the Philistine king of Gath. After the death of Saul, he ruled Judah from Hebron for seven years, and when Ishbaal was assassinated, David was elected king of Israel by a tribal assembly. Conquering Jerusalem from the Jebusites, David made it both a religious center, transferring the Ark of the Covenant there, and the royal residence. A royal bureaucracy was developed. The cult of Yahweh was centralized and used to support the validity of his dynasty. David conquered the northern and Transjordanian tribes, incorporating them into Israel. The Philistines and the Aramean state of Zobah to the north were defeated and made vassals. He entered into a treaty with Hiram, king of Sidon and Tyre (969–936). The earliest Hebrew writings, including some Psalms and historical annals, possibly date to the reign of David.

c. 965–931 BC

THE REIGN OF KING SOLOMON. After David's death, Solomon killed his rival half-brother Adonijah and took power. With Phoenician help, Solomon built a Temple to Yahweh, as well as a magnificent palace and a citadel, in Jerusalem. Solomon reorganized the administration and expanded the royal bureaucracy and the standing army. Diplomatic marriages were made with surrounding powers, including one to the daughter of Pharaoh Siamun of Egypt. In partnership with Hiram of Tyre, Solomon organized shipping for trade in the Mediterranean and on the Red Sea; with Cilicia and Egypt, he developed a cartel in horses and chariots; and he arranged with the Queen of Sheba (Saba) for trade in frankincense and myrrh from south Arabia. The population of Solomon's kingdom was probably between 300,000 and 500,000. On Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam took the throne, but a revolt broke out under Jeroboam I who became king of the bulk of the country. Rehoboam retained only Jerusalem and Judah.

931–722 BC



Jeroboam I (931–910) established Israel's political capital at Shechem and fought a five-year war with Judah, which ended only with the invasion of Pharaoh Sheshonq I (Shishak) in 926. The Egyptians devastated much of Israel. Jeroboam's son Nadab (910–909) was assassinated by a general, Baasha.

909–885 BC

THE DYNASTY OF BAASHA. Baasha (909–886) fought both with Judah and Damascus. Ben Hadad I of Damascus defeated Israel and annexed Bashan, north of the Yarmuk River. Apparently in response to this, Baasha moved the capital to Tirzah, whose site is not known. Baasha's son Elah (886–885) ruled only two years before he was assassinated by one of his generals. A three-year civil war broke out in which another general, Omri, was finally successful.

885–841 BC

THE DYNASTY OF OMRI. Omri (885–874) established a new capital at Samaria, which he fortified, and married his son Ahab to Jezebel, daughter of King Ittobaal of Tyre. Omri attacked and subdued Moab in the Transjordan and also fought against the Judeans, but without much success. Ahab (874–853) made peace with Judah, marrying his daughter Athaliah to Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat. In the Battle of Qarqar in 853, Ahab, along with the kings of Damascus and Hamath, temporarily stopped the Assyrians. The coalition did not last, and Ahab lost his life fighting against Damascus. Jezebel attempted to suppress the worship of Yahweh, in favor of Baal, but was boldly resisted by the prophet Elijah the Tishbite. On Ahab's death he was succeeded by his two sons Ahaziah (853–852) and Jehoram (Joram, 852–841).

841–752 BC

THE DYNASTY OF JEHU. Jehoram was killed in a rebellion by one of his generals, Jehu (841–814), supported by the prophet Elisha. In the revolt, Jezebel was murdered and the priests of Baal massacred. Jehu's foreign policy was weak: he paid tribute to Assyria, and Hazael of Damascus took Transjordan from Israel. Indeed, under Jehu's son, Joahaz (814–798), Israel became a dependency of Damascus. Joash (798–782) was more successful, leading Israel in a series of wars against Ben Hadad II in which he recovered Israel's lost territories. Later Joash turned against Judah and defeated Amaziah, took Jerusalem, looted the temple, and reduced the southern kingdom to vassals. Joash's son, Jeroboam II (782–753), ruled a wealthy and powerful Israel: Damascus and Hamath were defeated, and perhaps annexed. The prophets Amos and Hosea opposed oppression and corruption in the kingdom. Zechariah (753–752) was the fifth and last king of Jehu's dynasty.

752–722 BC

THE LAST DAYS OF ISRAEL. Zechariah was assassinated by Shallum (752), but after only one month's rule, he in turn was killed by Menahem (752–742), who paid an enormous tribute of 1,000 talents of silver to Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria to avoid conquest. This submission was unpopular and Menahem's son Pekahiah (742–740) was assassinated by an anti-Assyrian party led by Pekah (740–732). Israel joined forces with Damascus against Assyria, but Tiglath-Pileser III came west in 734–732 and laid waste to both kingdoms. The Galilee was taken from Israel and turned into an Assyrian province, and Hoshea (732–722) was placed on the throne as a client-king. About 725, Hoshea revolted, seeking an alliance with “So, King of Egypt” (either Osorkon IV or Tefnahkte). The Assyrians managed to seize Hoshea, and Samaria fell in 722 after a three-year siege. According to Sargon II, 27,290 Israelites were deported from the country, and Israel was made an Assyrian province called Samaria.

931–586 BC



PERIOD OF ISRAELITE DOMINATION. The descendants of David ruled Judah for its entire history, except for the reign of Queen Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab of Israel and Jezebel of Tyre. Rehoboam (931–913) died shortly after the raid by Sheshonq I (Shishak) of Egypt, but the war between Judah and Israel continued intermittently through the reigns of Abijah (913–911) and Asa (911–870). Jehoshaphat (870–848) made peace with Ahab of Israel and joined him in war against Damascus. After the death of Jehoram (848–841) and Ahaziah (841), Jehoram's wife, Athaliah (841–835) seized power in Judah. With the backing of the high priest, Athaliah was deposed and killed, and Ahaziah's son Jehoash (835–796) was enthroned, but he was forced to pay heavy tribute to Damascus. Amaziah (796–768) lost a war with Joash and became a vassal of Israel.

768–715 BC

THE REIGNS OF UZZIAH AND AHAZ. Uzziah (Azariah, 768–740) won military victories against Philistia, Edom, and northern Arabia and restored Judah to political strength. Uzziah became the head of the western anti-Assyrian coalition, but he was defeated by Tiglath-Pileser III in 738, although (unlike its Aramean allies) Judah managed to keep its independence. Ahaz (734–715) came to the throne in time to face attack from a coalition of Israel and Damascus. Against the advice of the prophet Isaiah, he appealed to Assyria and the destruction of Damascus and Israel by Assyria soon followed.

715–640 BC

PERIOD OF ASSYRIAN DOMINATION. Hezekiah (715–687) instituted a number of religious reforms and suppressed pagan practices, such as destroying a bronze serpent in the temple attributed to Moses. He organized a coalition of Phoenicia, Philistia, and Egypt to oppose the Assyrians, but in 701 Sennacherib crushed it. Sennacherib accepted heavy tribute and did not take Jerusalem. Manasseh (687–642) and his son Amon (642–640) ruled as mere puppets of Assyria.

640–609 BC

THE REIGN OF JOSIAH. Amon was murdered in a palace coup, but popular unrest put his son, Josiah, (640–609) on the throne. In 627, around the time of Ashurbanipal's death, Josiah reasserted Judah's independence and expanded the kingdom's borders. He moved into the old territory of Israel, annexing the Assyrian provinces of Samaria, Gilead, and Galilee, and briefly reunited Judah and Israel. A law book, the nucleus of the book of Deuteronomy, was found in the temple and made the basis of a religious reform: foreign and pagan cults were extirpated and worship was centralized in Jerusalem. The Deuteronomic history was compiled during Josiah's reign. Josiah was killed at the second Battle of Megiddo (609) opposing Pharaoh Necho II's march into Syria, and Judah briefly became an Egyptian vassal.

609–586 BC

PERIOD OF BABYLONIAN DOMINATION. During the reign of Jehoiakim (609–598), Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish (605), and Judah became a Babylonian client-state. Around 601, Jehoiakim revolted against Nebuchadnezzar but died just before the Babylonian army arrived at Jerusalem. His son, Jehoiachin (597) reigned three months and then surrendered. He and about 10,000 Jews were taken captive into Babylonian exile. Nebuchadnezzar placed the king's uncle Zedekiah (597–586) on the throne. Despite the protests of the prophet Jeremiah, Zedekiah joined Egypt in a revolt, and Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem a second time. The city fell in 586, Solomon's Temple was razed, and a second group of captives was taken into Babylonian captivity.

586–331 BC


586–539 BC

JUDAH UNDER BABYLONIAN RULE. A Jewish governor, Gedaliah, was appointed, but he was soon assassinated in a nationalist revolt, which was suppressed. After this event, the focus of the biblical text turns to the exiled community in Babylon, and events in the province of Judah are obscure. The exile community, under the leadership of the former royal family, prospered. The prophets Ezekiel and Deutero-Isaiah operated in Babylonia. The Deuteronomic history was re-edited, and the priestly edition of the Pentateuch written. The last Babylonian governor was Shesh-bazzar, probably a member of the royal family.

539–332 BC

JUDAH UNDER PERSIAN RULE. Cyrus confirmed Shesh-bazzar as governor and allowed him to begin construction of the Second Temple. It was the next governor, Zerubbabel (c. 520–516), the grandson of King Jehoiachin, who completed the structure. Zerubbabel's rebuff to the “people of the land” (that is, Jews who had remained in Judah and Israel) was the beginning of the split between Samaritans and Jews. Around 445, Nehemiah, the Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes I (464–424), was appointed governor of Judah and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Ezra served both as governor of Judah and as the religious authority for all Jews in the western Persian empire. His cultic and legal reforms had far-reaching effects on the development of post-exilic Judaism. The date of his mission is problematic: 457, 437, or 398 are all possible dates. Little is known about the subsequent history of Judah until the conquest by Alexander the Great. When Alexander was besieging Tyre in 333, the high priest Jaddua submitted to him. The stories of Alexander visiting Jerusalem are probably apocryphal.

Source: The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Theodor Herzl, visionary of the Jewish State, in 1901.
Ancient Israel
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