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Kingdom of Judah

In the Old Testament, the Kingdom of Judah is the nation formed from the territories of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin after the Kingdom of Israel was divided. It is often called the Southern Kingdom to distinguish it from the tribe of Judah. Its capital was Jerusalem. See History of ancient Israel and Judah.

This article is about what the Bible says. For how this relates to history, see The Bible and history.

When the disruption took place at Shechem, at first only the tribe of Judah followed the house of David. But very soon after the tribe of Benjamin joined the tribe of Judah, and Jerusalem became the capital of the new kingdom (Joshua 18:28), which was called the kingdom of Judah.

For the first sixty years the kings of Judah aimed at re-establishing their authority over the kingdom of the other ten tribes, so that there was a state of perpetual war between them. For the next eighty years there was no open war between them. For the most part they were in friendly alliance, co-operating against their common enemies, especially against Damascus. For about another century and a half Judah had a somewhat checkered existence after the termination of the kingdom of Israel till its final overthrow in the destruction of the temple (586 BC) by Nebuzar-adan, who was captain of Nebuchadnezzar's body-guard (2 Kings 25:8-21).

The kingdom maintained a separate existence for three hundred and eighty-nine years. It occupied an area of 8,900 km2 (3,435 square miles).

The kings of Judah

For this period, most historians follow either the chronology established by William F. Albright or E. R. Thiele, both of which are shown below. (Albright's dates are in bold while Thiele's are in italics.) A significant minority hold that many of the rulers of this period are either legendary or fictional. All dates are BC/BCE.

922 931 - 915 913 Rehoboam
915 913 - 913 911 Abijam
913 911 - 873 870 Asa
873 870 - 849 848 Jehoshaphat
849 848 - 842 841 Jehoram
842 841 - 842 841 Ahaziah
842 841 - 837 835 (Queen Mother) Athaliah
837 835 - 800 796 Jehoash (Joash, son of Ahaziah).

In the first regnal year of Jehoash (837/835 BC) the High priest of Baal, Mattan, was killed (2 Chronicles 24:17).

800 796 - 783 767 Amaziah
783 767 - 742 740 Uzziah

(George Syncellus wrote that the First Olympiad took place in Uzziah's 48th regnal year.)

742 740 - 735 732 Jotham
735 732 - 715 716 Ahaz
715 716 - 687 687 Hezekiah

Hezekiah was contemporary with king Sennacherib of Assyria, and king Merodach-baladan of Babylonia. There is some question whether the latter kings can provide a reliable synchronism for his reign: Al-Biruni and Bar-Hebraeus mention a "King Sennacherib the Less" as well. Furthermore, there was another king named Merodakh Baladan ben Baladan, also known as Mardokempad. (Ptolemy assumed, without any reason, that Mordac Empadus was contemporary with King Hezekiah.) These two Baladans remained pretenders during Sennacherib's reign, therefore it is not easy to identify their regnal years as Ptolemy attempted. According to Robert R. Newton (The Crime of Claudius Ptolemy, 1977), this ancient scholar frequently attributed some observations to certain years of some kings for the sake of simplicity in his tabulation, but those were not part of the original observations. Newton also asserts Ptolemy often arbitrarily fudged astronomical data in order to support his own theories.

687 687 - 642 643 Manasseh
642 643 - 640 641 Amon
640 641 - 609 609 Josiah

King Josiah died in a battle against Necho II of Egypt.

609 609 Jehoahaz
609 609 - 598 598 Jehoiakim
598 598 Jehoiachin. (Perhaps from March to May as 2 Chronicles 36:10 suggests.)
597 597 - 587 586 Zedekiah

Zedekiah rebelled twice: in the first rebellion (597 BC) Jerusalem was captured and most of its leaders were taken into exile. In the second rebellion (586 BC) Jerusalem was again captured, the temple burnt, Zedekiah taken into exile and Judah utterly lost its independence to Nebuchadnezzar II.