I. The Kingdom—The prophet Ahijah of Shiloh, who was commissioned in the latter days of Solomon to announce the division of the kingdom, left one tribe (Judah) to the house of David, and assigned ten to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:31, 35). These were probably Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, Benjamin, Dan, Simeon, Gad, and Reuben, Levi being intentionally omitted. Eventually the greater part of Benjamin, and probably the whole of Simeon and Dan, were included as if by common consent in the kingdom of Judah. With respect to the conquests of David, Moab appears to have been attached to the kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 3:4). So much of Syria, as remained subject to Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:24) would probably be claimed by his successor in the northern kingdom, and Ammon was at one time allied (2 Chronicles 20:1), we know not how closely or how early, with Moab. The seacoast between Accho and Japho remained in the possession of Israel. The whole population may perhaps have amounted to at least three and a half millions.
II. The Capitals—Shechem was the first capital of the new kingdom (1 Kings 12:25). Subsequently Tirzah became the royal residence, if not the capital, of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:17) and of his successors (1 Kings 15:33; 16:8, 17, 23). Samaria was chosen by Omri (1 Kings 16:24). Jezreel was probably only a royal residence of some of the Israelitish kings.
III. History—The kingdom of Israel lasted 254 years. The detailed history of the kingdom will be found under the names of its nineteen kings. A summary view may be taken in four periods:
- B.C. 975-929. Jeroboam had not sufficient force of character in himself to make a lasting impression on his people. A king, but not a founder of a dynasty, he aimed at nothing beyond securing his present elevation. Baasha, in the midst of the army at Gibbethon, slew the son and successor of Jeroboam. Zimri, a captain of chariots, slew the son and successor of Baasha. Omri, the captain of the host, was chosen to punish Zimri, and after a civil war of four years he prevailed over Tibni, the choice of half the people.
- B.C. 929-884. For forty-five years Israel was governed by the house of Omri. The princes of his house cultivated an alliance with the king of Judah, which was cemented by the marriage of Jehoram and Athaliah. The adoption of Baal-worship led to a reaction in the nation, to the moral triumph of the prophets in the person of Elijah, and to extinction of the house of Ahab in obedience to the bidding of Elisha.
- B.C. 884-772. Unparalleled triumphs, but deeper humiliation, awaited the kingdom of Israel under the dynasty of Jehu. Hazael, the ablest king of Damascus, reduced Jehoahaz to the condition of a vassal and triumphed for a time over both the disunited Hebrew kingdoms. Almost the first sign of the restoration of their strength was a war between them, and Jehoash, the grandson of Jehu, entered Jerusalem as the conqueror of Amaziah. Jehoash also turned the tide of war against the Syrians, and Jeroboam II., the most powerful of all the kings of of Israel, captured Damascus and recovered the whole ancient frontier from Hamath to the Dead Sea. This short-lived greatness expired with the last king of Jehu’s line.
- B.C. 772-721. Military violence, it would seem, broke off the hereditary succession after the obscure and probably convulsed reign of Zachariah. An unsuccessful usurper, Shallum, is followed by the cruel Menahem, who, being unable to make head against the first attack of Assyria under Pul, became the agent of that monarch for the oppressive taxation of his subjects. Yet his power at home was sufficient to ensure for his son and successor Pekahiah a ten-years reign, cut short by a bold usurper, Pekah. Abandoning the northern and transjordanic regions to the encroaching power of Assyria under Tiglath-pileser, he was very near subjugating Judah, with the help of Damascus, now the coequal ally of Israel. But Assyria interposing summarily put an end to the independence of Damascus, and perhaps was the indirect cause of the assassination of the baffled Pekah. The irresolute Hoshea, the next and last usurper, became tributary to his invader Shalmaneser, betrayed the Assyrian to the rival monarchy of Egypt, and was punished by the loss of his liberty, and by the capture, after a three-years siege, of his strong capital, Samaria. Some gleanings of the ten tribes yet remained in the land after so many years of religious decline, moral debasement, national degradation, anarchy, bloodshed, and deportation. Even these were gathered up by the conqueror and carried to Assyria, never again, as a distinct people, to occupy their portion of that goodly and pleasant land which their forefathers won under Joshua from the heathen. (Schaff Bible Dictionary adds to this summary that “after the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, B.C. 721, the name ‘Israel’ began to be applied to the whole surviving people. No doubt many of the kingdom of Israel joined the later kingdom of the Jews after the captivity and became part of that kingdom.–ED.)