Learn more about United Monarchy
The United Monarchy (United Kingdom of Israel and Judah or just Kingdom of Israel) refers to a period in the History of ancient Israel and Judah lasting from approximately 1050 BCE until about 930 BCE.
Around 1025 BCE, the children of the patriarch Jacob (Israel) united to form the Kingdom of Israel. Samuel anointed Saul ben Kish from the tribe of Benjamin as the first king of the Israelites in approximately 1020 BCE. It was his successor, David c.1006 BCE, who was responsible for consolidating the monarchy and creating the first Hebrew state.
David, the second and the greatest King of Israel, established Jerusalem as Israel's national capital 3,000 years ago. Before then, Hebron had been the capital of David's Judah and Mahanaim of Ishbaal's Israel, and before that Gibeah had been the capital of the United Monarchy under Saul. Earlier, Shilo had been capital of Israel.
David succeeded in truly unifying the Hebrew tribes, and set up a monarchical government. He embarked on successful military campaigns against Israel's enemies, and defeated bitter foes such as the Philistines, thus creating secure borders for Israel. Under King David, Israel grew from Kingdom to Empire. Under the House of David, the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah achieved prosperity and superiority in the Near East.
 Monarchs and Biblical Chronology
There were four rulers of the United Monarchy:
- Saul ben Kish from the tribe of Benjamin
- Ishbaal (name sometimes written as Ishboseth due to religious prejudices), a son of Saul
- David, unrelated to Saul and from the tribe of Judah
- Solomon, son of David
King David is responsible for establishing Jerusalem as Israel's national capital; before then, Hebron had been the capital of David's Judah and Mahanaim of Ishbaal's Israel, and before that Gibeah had been the capital of Saul's rule. Earlier parts of the bible indicate that Shiloh had been seen as the national capital; from an archaeological standpoint this is considered plausible, as far as it being the religious capital.
For this period, most historians follow either of the older chronologies established by William F. Albright or Edwin R. Thiele, or the newer chronology of Gershon Galil, all of which are shown below. All dates are BCE. Thiele's chronology generally Galil's chronology below with a slight difference of 1 year at the most.<ref>Kenneth Kitchen, How We Know When Solomon Ruled: Israel's Kings, BAR September/October 2001</ref>
|Albright dates||Thiele dates||Galil dates||Common/Biblical name||Regnal Name and style||Notes|
|c.1021–1000||c.1030–1010||Saul||שאול בן-קיש מלך ישראל|
Shaul ben Qysh, Melek Ysra'el
|Killed in battle|
|איש-בשת בן-שאול מלך ישראל|
Ishba'al ben Shaul, Melek Ysra'el
|c.1000–962||c.1008–970||David||דוד בן-ישי מלך ישראל|
David ben Yishai, Melekh Ysra’el
|Son-in-law of Saul, brother-in-law of Ish-boseth|
|c.962–c.922||c.970–931||Solomon||שלמה בן-דוד מלך ישראל|
Shelomoh ben David, Melekh Ysra'el
|Son of David by Bathsheba, his rights of succession were disputed by his older half-brother Adonijah|
 Origins and historicity of the United Monarchy
According to the biblical account, the United Monarchy was formed when there was a large popular expression in favour of introducing a monarchy to rule over the previously decentralised Israelite tribal confederacy. Increasing pressure from the Philistines and other neighboring tribes is said by the bible to have forced the Israelites to unite as a more singular state. The bible treats the notion of kingship as having been an anathema at the time, it being seen as one man put in a position of reverence and power, which in their faith was reserved for God.
This interpretation, however, is seen by textual critics as a result of the spliced together nature of the books of Samuel; according to textual critics, there are a number of distinct source texts that have been spliced together to produce the current books of Samuel, the most prominent in the early parts of the first book being the pro-monarchial source and the anti-monarchial source. By identifying these sources within the text, two separate accounts can be reconstructed, as a consensus among textual scholars has produced. The anti-monarchial source describes Samuel (thought by a number of scholars to be a cipher for God himself) to have thoroughly routed the philistines, but begrudgingly accepting that the people demand a ruler, and appointing Saul by cleromancy. The pro-monarchial source describes the divine birth of Saul (a single word being changed by a later editor so that it referred to Samuel instead), and his later leading of an army to victory over the Ammonites, which resulted in the people clamouring for him to lead them against the philistines, wherupon he is appointed king. <ref>This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.</ref>
According to a minority of archaeologists, the territory involved (Canaan) was, and remained, split into two distinct cultural parts - one being Judah the other Israel. Judah was sparsely populated in comparison to Israel, and had no major urban centres, its small population being semi-nomadic; Judah was little more than Israel's rural backwater. Any United Monarchy would for all practical purposes simply be run of the mill rulers of Israel, as dominion over Judah was no more significant than a large house having control of a small back garden. From the point of view of some critical historians, Judah's significance in the era has been beefed up by the 300 year later biblical authors and redactors, in order to justify an attempt by Josiah, a ruler contemporary with the authors, to conquer the former territory of Israel. <ref>Finkelstein, Silberman, The Bible Unearthed</ref>
Despite the nature of Israel and Judah at this time being traditionally been called a United Monarchy, the biblical text consistently refer to three distinct groups:<ref>Jewish Encyclopedia, Samuel, Books of</ref>
- Israelites is consistently used to refer to Saul's forces. After the time of Saul it also used to refer to the supporters of the rebellions against David's reign, in contrast to his supporters.
- Judahites consistently refers to David's supporters during the rebellions against his rule, in contrast to the rebels.
- Hebrews is consistently used to designate a group that are separate and distinct to the Israelites and Judahites, and who sometimes take the side of the Philistines against those of Israel and Judah. It is weakly associated with Jonathan initially, and then more strongly with David's band of outlaws.
A number of scholars have therefore suggested that though the appearance of the biblical account is of a united monarchy with a number of rebellions, even the biblical account actually describes two distinct kingdoms - Israel and Judah - rather than a united entity. According to this view, the bible portrays Judah led, or anthropomorphised, by David entering into a politically motivated alliance with a band of outlaws led, or anthropomorphised, by Jonathan, and sometimes with the Philistines, in order to rebel against Israel, led by Saul. <ref>Finkelstein, Silberman, The Bible Unearthed</ref>
 Civil war
According to the first book of Samuel, due to his disobedience to God, Saul's reign was curtailed and his kingdom given to another dynasty. The masoretic text reads that Saul ruled for only two years, although some early manuscripts read forty-two years (cf. the New Testament, which gives him a reign of forty years); the original figure, based on the number of battles ascribed to him, was probably twenty-two years, and has become corrupt<ref>Finkelstein, Silberman, The Bible Unearthed</ref>. The bible portrays Saul as having died in battle against the Philistines; the anti-monarchial source, according to textual critics, subtly implicates David in this, suggesting that he had sided with the Philistines.
According to both the anti-monarchial and pro-monarchial sources, David and Saul had earlier become bitter enemies, at least from Saul's point of view, though the sources describe Jonathan, Saul's son, and Michal, Saul's daughter, (anti-monarchial and pro-monarchial source respectively) as assisting David to escape Saul, ultimately leading to brief reconciliation before Saul's death.
Saul's heir, Ishbaal, took over rulership of Israel but, according to Samuel, ruled for only two years before he was assassinated. David, who had become king of Judah only, acted as counter-rebel, ended the conspiracy, and was appointed king of Israel in Ishbaal's place; a number of textual critics and biblical scholars have suggested that David was actually responsible for the assassination, and his position as counter-rebel was a later invention to legitimise David's actions.
Israel rebels, according to Samuel, and appoints Absalom, David's son, as their new king. The bible then describes Israel as rebelling, taking over Judah, and ultimately forcing David into exile on the east of the Jordan. According to the increasing majority of archaeologists, this isn't so much a case of rebellion by Israel against a mighty kingdom, but more a case of Israel re-asserting its authority over a poor, rural, sparsely populated, backwater.
This section of the biblical text, and the bulk of the remainder of the books of Samuel is thought by textual critics to belong to a single large source known as the court history of David; though reflecting the political bias of the later kingdom of Judah after Israel's destruction, the source is somewhat more neutral than the pro and anti monarchial sources that form earlier parts of the text. Israel and Judah are portrayed in this source as quite distinct kingdoms.
Eventually, according to Samuel, David launches a counter-attack, and wins, although with the loss of Absalom, his son. After having retaken Judah, as well as asserted control over Israel, David returns to the west of the Jordan, though he continues to suffer a number of rebellions by Israel, successfully suppressing each one.
 The "Golden Age"
In the Biblical account, David finally succeeds in truly unifying Judah and Israel. Some modern archaeologists believe there was a continued and uninterrupted existence of two distinct cultures, and geographic entities - one being Judah the other Israel and if there was a political union it possibly had no practical effect in the relationship between the two nations <ref>Finkelstein, Silberman, The Bible Unearthed</ref>.
David embarked on successful military campaigns against Judah's and Israel's enemies, and defeated bitter foes such as the Philistines, thus creating secure borders. Under King David, Israel grew from Kingdom to Empire, and its sphere of influence - militarily and politically - in the Middle East expanded greatly, controlling a number of weaker client states like Philistia, Moab, Edom, Ammon, with a number of Aramaean city-states (Aram-Zobah and Aram-Damascus) becoming vassal states; the imperial border stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Arabian Desert, from the Red Sea to the Euphrates River. According to the biblical account, the empire had a large land area . Some modern archaeologists, though holding only a minority view, believe that the area under the control of Judah and Israel in this era, excluding the Phoenician territories on the shore of the Mediterranean, did not exceede 34,000 km² (13,000 square miles); of these, the kingdom of Israel encompassed about 24,000 km² (9,375 square miles).
David was succeeded on his death by his son, Solomon, who obtained the kingdom in a somewhat disreputable manner from the rival claimant, his elder brother Adonijah, whom he later had killed. Living up to his name (peace), the rule of Solomon was one in which the nation knew unprecedented peace.
David and Solomon are both portrayed by the Bible as having entered into strong alliances with the (possibly unnamed) King of Tyre. In return for ceding land to Tyre, David and Solomon are said to have received a number of master craftsmen, skilled labourers, money, jewels, cedar, and other goods. David's Palace and Solomon's Temple are described as having been built with the assistance of these Tyrian assets, as well as to designs given by architects from Tyre.
Solomon rebuilt a number of major cities, including Megiddo, Hazor, and Gezer; these have been excavated and scholars attributed elements of the archaeological remains, some of which are rather impressive such as six chambered gates and ashlar palaces, to this building programme. Structures within these remains are identified as the stables for the vast collection of horses that Solomon is believed to have kept, together with drinking troughs.
 End of the "United Monarchy"
Following Solomon's death in c. 926 BCE, tensions between the northern part of Israel containing the 10 northern tribes, and the southern section dominated by Jerusalem and the southern tribes reached boiling point. When Solomon's successor Rehoboam dealt tactlessly with the economic complaints, in 920 BCE Israel split into 2 kingdoms: Israel (including the cities of Shechem and Samaria), in the north and Judah (containing Jerusalem) in the south; most of the non-Hebrew provinces fell away.
The Kingdom of Israel, or Northern Kingdom, existed as an independent state from about 930 BCE until around 720 BCE when it was conquered by the Assyrian Empire. The Kingdom of Judah, or Southern Kingdom, existed as an independent state from about 930 BCE until 586 BCE when it was conquered by the Babylonian Empire.
 See also
- Canaan, land that made up the ancient Jewish Kingdoms of Israel and Judah
|The Biblical and Historical Israelites|
| Children of Israel · Twelve Tribes of Israel · Ten Lost Tribes