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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Judah, Kingdom of.
When the territory of all the rest of Israel, except Judah and Benjamin, was lost to the kingdom of Rehoboam, a special single name was needed to denote that which remained to him; and almost of necessity the word Judah received an extended meaning, according to which it comprised not Benjamin only, but the priests and Levites, who were ejected in great numbers from Israel, and rallied round the house of David. At a still later time, when the nationality of the ten tribes had been dissolved, and every practical distinction between the ten and the two had vanished during the captivity, the scattered body had no visible head, except in Jerusalem, which had been reoccupied mostly by a portion of Judah's exiles. (See CAPTIVITY). In consequence, the name Judah (or Jew) attached itself to the entire nation from about the epoch of the restoration (See JEW). But in this article Judah is understood of the people over which David's successors reigned, from Rehoboam to Zedekiah. It substantially corresponded to the Judoea (q.v.) of later times.
I. Extent of the Kingdom. — When the disruption of Solomon's kingdom took place at Shechem, only the tribe of Judah followed the house of David. But almost immediately afterwards, when Rehoboam conceived the design of establishing his authority over Israel by force of arms, the tribe of Benjamin also is recorded as obeying his summons, and contributing its warriors to make up his army. Jerusalem, situate within the borders of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28, etc.), yet won from the heathen by a prince of Judah, connected the frontiers of the two tribes by an indissoluble political bond. By the erection of the city of David, Benjamin's former adherence to Israel (2 Samuel 2:9) was cancelled, though at least two Benjamite towns, Bethel and Jericho, were included in the northern kingdom. A part, if not all, of the territory of Simeon (1 Samuel 27:6; 1 Kings 19:3; comp. Joshua 19:1) and of Dan (2 Chronicles 11:10; comp. Joshua 19:41-42) was recognized as belonging to Judah, and in the reigns of Abijah and Asa the southern kingdom was enlarged by some additions taken out of the territory of Ephraim (2 Chronicles 13:19; 2 Chronicles 15:8; 2 Chronicles 17:2). After the conquest and deportation of Israel by Assyria, the influence, and perhaps the delegated jurisdiction of the king of Judah, sometimes extended over the territory which formerly belonged to Israel. (See JUDAEA).
II. Population. — A singular gauge of the growth of the kingdom of Judah is supplied by the progressive augmentation of the army under successive kings. In David's time (2 Samuel 24:9, and 1 Chronicles 21:5) the warriors of Judah numbered at least 500,000. But Rehoboam brought into the field (1 Kings 12:21) only 180,000 men; Abijah, eighteen years afterwards, 400,000 (2 Chronicles 13:3); Asa (2 Chronicles 14:8), his successor, 580,000, exactly equal to the sum of the armies of his two predecessors; Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 17:14-19), the next king, numbered his warriors in five armies, the aggregate of which is 1,160,000, exactly double the army of his father, and exactly equal to the sum of the armies of his three predecessors. After four inglorious reigns, the energetic Amaziah could muster only 300,000 men when he set out to recover Edom. His son Uzziah had a standing (2 Chronicles 26:11) force of 307,500 fighting men. It would be out of place here to discuss the question which has been raised as to the accuracy of these numbers. (See NUMBER) So far as they are authentic, it may be safely reckoned that the population subject to each king was about four times the number of the fighting men in his dominions. (See ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF).
III. Resources. — Unless Judah had some other means of acquiring wealth besides pasture and tillage — as by maritime commerce from the Red Sea ports, or (less probably) from Joppa, or by keeping up the old trade (1 Kings 10:28) with Egypt — it seems difficult to account for that ability to accumulate wealth which supplied the Temple treasury with sufficient store to invite so frequently the hand of the spoiler. Egypt, Damascus, Samaria, Nineveh, and Babylon had each in succession a share of the pillage. The treasury was emptied by Shishak (1 Kings 14:26), again by Asa (1 Kings 15:18), by Jehoash of Judah (2 Kings 12:18), by Jehoash of Israel (2 Kings 14:14), by Ahaz (2 Kings 16:8), by Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:15), and by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 24:13).
IV. Advantages of Position. — In Edom a vassal king probably retained his fidelity to the son of Solomon, and guarded for Jewish enterprise the road to the maritime trade with Ophir. Philistia maintained, for the most part, a quiet independence. Syria, in the height of her brief power, pushed her conquests along the northern and eastern frontiers of Judah, and threatened Jerusalem; but the interposition of the territory of Israel generally relieved Judah from any immediate contact with that dangerous neighbor. The southern border of Judah, resting on the uninhabited desert, was not agitated by any turbulent stream of commercial activity like that which flowed by the rear of Israel, from Damascus to Tyre. Though some of the Egyptian kings were ambitious, that ancient kingdom was far less aggressive as a neighbor to Judah than Assyria was to Israel.
The kingdom of Judah thus possessed many advantages which secured for it a longer continuance than that of Israel. A frontier less exposed to powerful enemies, a soil less fertile, a population hardier and more united, a fixed and venerated center of administration and religion, a hereditary aristocracy in the sacerdotal caste, an army always subordinate, a succession of kings which no revolution interrupted, many of whom were wise and good, and strove successfully to promote the moral and spiritual as well as the material prosperity of their people; still more than these, the devotion of the people to the One True God, which, if not always a pure and elevated sentiment, was yet a contrast to such devotion as could be inspired by the worship of the calves or of Baal; and, lastly, the popular reverence for arid obedience to the divine law so far as they learned it from their teachers — to these and other secondary causes is to be attributed the fact that Judah survived her more populous and more powerful sister kingdom by 135 years, and lasted from B.C. 975 to B.C. 586. (See Bernhardy, De causis quibus effectum sit quod regnum Judoe diutius persisteret quam regn. Israel, in the Annal. Acad. Groning. 1822-23, p. 124 sq.; also Lovan. 1824; Schmeidler, Der Untergang d. Reichs Juda, Bresl. 1831.)
V. History. — For the circumstances that led to the schism, and for a comparison with the history of the rival kingdom, (See ISRAEL, KINGDOM OF). For a further examination of the many chronological difficulties arising from the double list of kings, (See CHRONOLOGY). The annals of the kingdom will be found detailed under the name of the several kings, and a general view under the articles JERUSALEM (See JERUSALEM), and PALESTINE (See PALESTINE). (See White, Kings of Judah and Israel, Lond. 1863; Hessey, Biographies of Kings of Judah, Lond. 1865; Hess, Geschichte der Kö nige Juda und Israel, Zurich, 1787; also Gesch. der Regenten Juda nach dem Exil, ib. 1788.) It will be sufficient, as a resume, here to notice the fact that the kingdom of Judah, in the course of its history, acted upon three different lines of policy in succession.
1. Animosity against the rival Kingdom of Israel. — The first three kings of Judah seem to have cherished the hope of reestablishing their authority over the Ten Tribes; for sixty years there was war between them and the kings of Israel. Neither the disbanding of Rehoboam's forces by the authority of Shemaiah, nor the pillage of Jerusalem by the irresistible Shishak, served to put an end to the fraternal hostility. The victory achieved by the daring Abijah brought to Judah a temporary accession of territory. Asa appears to have enlarged it still further, and to have given so powerful a stimulus to the migration of religious Israelites to Jerusalem that Baasha was induced to fortify Ramah with a view to checking the movement. Asa provided for the safety of his subjects from invaders by building, like Rehoboam, several fenced cities; he repelled an alarming irruption of an Ethiopian horde, he hired the armed intervention of Benhadad I, king of Damascus, against Baasha; and he discouraged idolatry and enforced the worship of the true God by severe penal laws. (See Junge, Bella inter Judsam et Israel. Tub. 1716.)
2. Resistance (generally in Alliance with Israel) to Damascus. — Hanani's remonstrance (2 Chronicles 16:7) prepares us for the reversal by Jehoshaphat of the policy which Asa pursued towards Israel and Damascus. A close alliance sprang up with strange rapidity between Judah and Israel. For eighty-years, till the time of Amaziah, there was no open war between them, and Damascus appears as their chief and common enemy, though it rose afterwards from its overthrow to become, under Rezin, the ally of Pekal against Ahaz. Jehoshaphat, active and prosperous, repelled nomad invaders from the desert, curbed the aggressive spirit of his nearer neighbors, and made his influence felt even among the Philistines and Arabians. A still more lasting benefit was conferred on his kingdom by his persevering efforts for the religious instruction of the people and the regular administration of justice. The reign of Jehoram, the husband of Athaliah, a time of bloodshed, idolatry, and disaster, was cut short by disease. Ahaziah was slain by Jehu. Athaliah, the granddaughter of a Tyrian king, usurped the blood stained throne of David, till the followers of the ancient religion put her to death, and crowned Jehoash the surviving scion of the royal house. His preserver, the high priest, acquired prominent personal influence for a time; but the king fell into idolatry, and failing to withstand the power of Syria, was murdered by his own officers. The vigorous Amaziah, flushed with the victory of Edom, provoked a war with his more powerful contemporary Jehoash, the conqueror of the Syrians, and Jerusalem was entered and plundered by the Israelites. But their energies were sufficiently occupied in the task of completing the subjugation of Damascus. Under Uzziah and Jotham, Judah long enjoyed political and religious prosperity till the wanton Ahaz, surrounded by united enemies, with whom he was unable to cope, became in an evil hour the tributary and vassal of Tiglath-Pileser.
3. Deference, perhaps Vassalage, to the Assyrian King. — Already in the fatal grasp of Assyria, Judah was yet spared for a checkered existence of almost another century and a half after the termination of the kingdom of Israel. The effect of the repulse of Sennacherib, of the signal religious revivals under Hezekiah and Josiah, and of the extension of these kings' salutary influence over the long severed territory of Israel, was apparently done away by the ignominious reign of the impious Manasseh, and the lingering decay of the whole people under the four feeble descendants of Josiah. Provoked by their treachery and imbecility, their Babylonian master, who had meanwhile succeeded to the dominion of the Assyrians, drained, in successive deportations, all the strength of the kingdom. The consummation of the ruin came upon them in the destruction of the Temple by the hand of Nebuzaradan, amid the wailing of prophets and the taunts of heathen tribes released at length from the yoke of David.
VI. Moral State. — The national life of the Hebrews appeared to become gradually weaker during these successive stages of history, until at length it seemed extinct; but there was still, as there had been all along, a spiritual life hidden within the body. It was a time of hopeless darkness to all but those Jews who had strong faith in God, with a clear and steady insight into the ways of Providence as interpreted by prophecy. The time of the division of the kingdoms was the golden age of prophecy. In each kingdom the prophetical office was subject to peculiar modifications which were required in Judah by the circumstances of the priesthood, in Israel by the existence of the house of Baal and the altar in Bethel. If, under the shadow of the Temple, there was a depth and a grasp elsewhere unequalled, in the views of Isaiah and the prophets of Judah; if their writings touched and elevated the hearts of thinking men in studious retirement in the silent night watches, there was also, in the few burning words and energetic deeds of the prophets of Israel, a power to tame a lawless multitude and to check the high handed tyranny and idolatry of kings. The organization and moral influence of the priesthood were matured in the time of David; from about that time to the building of the second Temple the influence of the prophets rose and became predominant. Some historians have suspected that after the reign of Athaliah, the priesthood gradually acquired and retained excessive and unconstitutional power in Judah. The recorded facts scarcely sustain the conjecture. Had it been so, the effect of such power would have been manifest in the exorbitant wealth and luxury of the priests, and in the constant and cruel enforcement of penal laws, like those of Asa, against irreligion. But the peculiar offenses of the priesthood, as witnessed in the prophetic writings, were of another kind. Ignorance of God's word, neglect of the instruction of the laity, untruthfulness, and partial judgments, are the offenses specially imputed to them, just such as might be looked for where the priesthood is a hereditary caste and irresponsible, but neither ambitious nor powerful. When the priest either, as was the case in Israel, abandoned the land, or, as in Judah, ceased to be really a teacher, ceased from spiritual communion with God, ceased from living sympathy with man, and became the mere image of an intercessor, a mechanical performer of ceremonial duties little understood or heeded by himself, then the prophet was raised up to supply some of his deficiencies, and to exercise his functions so far as was necessary. While the priests sink into obscurity and almost disappear, except from the genealogical tables, the prophets come forward appealing everywhere to the conscience of individuals — in Israel as wonder workers, calling together God's chosen few out of an idolatrous nation, and in Judah as teachers and seers, supporting and purifying all that remained of ancient piety, explaining each mysterious dispensation of God as it was unfolded, and promulgating his gracious spiritual promises in all their extent. The part which Isaiah, Jeremiah, and other prophets took in preparing the Jews for their captivity, cannot, indeed, be fully appreciated without reviewing the succeeding efforts of Ezekiel and Daniel. But the influence which they exercised on the national mind was too important to be overlooked in a sketch, however brief, of the history of the kingdom of Judah. (See PROPHET).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Judah, Kingdom of.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/j/judah-kingdom-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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