Skip to main content

Religious and Theological Studies

Research guide for the study of religion and theology.

A History of the Southern Kingdom

Pre-Exilic Judah

Israel: Break to Fall

  • The death of King Solomon in 920 BCE ended the united kingdoms of Israel and Judah.  The Northern Kingdom of Israel broke union with the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Isaiah

  • In the introduction to Isaiah, the Anselm Academic Study Bible gives light to some political and geographical information pertaining to the time of Isaiah.  It also provides information on the most prevalent prophecy given to Isaiah including how Isaiah is split into three different sections, written by three different authors, over the period of the Exile (pre-exile, during the exile, and post exile).
  • Isaiah is divided into three sections: First Isaiah: 1-39, Second Isaiah: 40-55, and Third Isaiah: 56-66
  •  Isaiah is the work of many authors and editors
    •  (Dempsey, 2013, The Book of Isaiah Introduction)

 

First Isaiah (742 BCE – 687 BCE)

  • Began in the last days of Uzziah, king of Judah
  • His call to prophesy was having a hot coal brought to his lips to purify them.
  • Major threat of his time was Assyria
  • Major events:

1.    Syro-Ephraimite crisis – attack from Tiglath-Pilesar III, who was a large threat to Judah between 734 BCE and 732 BCE.

2.    Northern Kingdom of Israel rebels against Assyria started in 722/721 (see 1.a. under the section "A History of the Southern Kingdom")

3.    After Hoshea rebelled, Assyria laid siege to Samaria (Israel’s capital) for three years.

4.    Siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE, Hezekiah was ruler of Judah – he started a religious reform and rebelled against Assyria with the help of Egypt. (see 3.a. under the section "A History of the Southern Kingdom")

  • Isaiah delivered a message to Hezekiah that Assyria would retreat and Jerusalem would not be destroyed.
  • Babylon destroyed the temple and burned Jerusalem in 587 BCE – Isaiah assured the people God had not abandoned them.

Second Isaiah (c. 539 BCE)

  • Isaiah tells of a new era.
  • 539 BCE Cyrus claims the exile is over
  •  Isaiah is best known for his idea of “The Suffering Servant”
    • For more information about Second Isaiah, see 7.a under the section "A History of the Southern Kingdom".

Third Isaiah (after 539 BCE, the end of the Babylonian Captivity)

In the book The Lion has Roared,chapter 12 “Isaiah, Prophet of the Lord Who Heals His people and Restores Their Land” is written by Hennie Kruger.  She specializes in the description of the theology contained in Isaiah: God is Lord, God’s kingship and throne, The Holy One of Israel, YHWH and the gods, The Servant of the Lord (because Isaiah specialized the suffering servant), and Eschatology (concerning death, judgment, and final destiny of humankind).

Decline of Babylon:  Isaiah II

  • Babylon began to fall to the Persians shortly after Ezekiel, and the prophet Isaiah II arises, proclaiming the fall of Babylon and the return of Judah from exile (Orlinsky, 1960, p. 107).  Cyrus of Persia completes the conquest of Babylon in 540 B.C.E., and shortly thereafter issues an edict that allows all those who were forced into exile to return to their native lands. This edict even encourage the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem (Orlinsky, 1960, p. 109).

Judah Returns

Apathy Condemned: Haggai and Zechariah

  • After Judah was allowed to return to Palestine, many did not go because they had built prosperous lives in Babylon; many who returned were not interested in rebuilding the Temple; and those who had remained were not thrilled at the exiles’ return (Orlinsky, 1960, p. 110).  Both the prophets Haggai and Zechariah thoroughly condemned the people for their supposed laziness and their unwillingness to re-construct the Temple.  Under Haggai, in 516 B.C.E., the temple was finally rebuilt (Orlinsky, 1960, p. 111). 

The Theocracy: Ezra and Nehemiah, and the Prophets Malachi, Jonah, and Joel

  • Judah developed into a state largely run by the priesthood under Ezra (480-440 B.C.E.), and was initially supported by the Persians (Orlinsky, 1960, p. 117).  Ezra helps to codify Jewish worship after the exile, probably playing a large role in the codifying of the Torah, and the expansion of religious celebrations in Judah.  Nehemiah, however, spent time in Persia and convinced the Emperor to allow him to return to rebuild Jerusalem (Orlinsky, 1960, p. 119).  Malachi was written during this period, although it does not mention the reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah (Peels, p. 198).  The books of Jonah and Joel may have also been written at this time, although they are hard to date (Hoppe, 1970, p. 1474 and 1445).  The Jewish Bible does not record history past this period.

Later Prophecy

Hellenistic Age: Daniel

  • In the early 4th century B.C.E., the Persian Empire, under which Ezra, Nehemiah, and several Minor Prophets were written, was conquered by Alexander of Macedon, rushing in the Hellenistic Era.  It is likely that the book of Daniel was written after Alexander’s death (323 B.C.E.) but before the events of the book of Maccabees (170 B.C.E.) (Hoppe, p. 1402-1403).

Did Prophecy End?

  • Scholars have argued over various reasons why prophecy seems to have declined in Judah after the exile.  As seen above, prophets were clearly still writing, but eventually the office of prophet seems to have disappeared in Judah.  Two major causes include the dethronement of the Davidic line (prophets were often associated with the kings before the exile) and the preference for the destroyed Temple over the second Temple as a true conduit to God (Sommer, 1996, p. 46-47).  Still, prophecy was not considered permanently ended, but Messianic beliefs pointed to the coming of a new prophet and the re-establishment of legitimate prophecy.

 

Judaism remained largely Middle Eastern in context until the conquest of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C.E., which brought Judaism, the remnants of Judah, into the sphere of the Mediterranean world through the Hellenistic era (in which the revolt of the Maccabees occurs), the Classical era (under Rome), the Byzantine era (under Constantinople), and ending with the Islamic/Medieval era (640-1918 C.E.), which was briefly interrupted by the Crusader period (1099 C.E.-1260 C.E.) (Miller and Hayes, 1986, p. 26-27).

Timeline of Southern Prophets

Timeline: Prophets in the Reigns of Kings of Judah and Israel.  From:

http://www.miketaylor.org.uk/xian/

bible/timeline.html

Judean Kings

Start of Reign

Judean Prophets

1. Rehoboam

931 BC

 

2. Abijah

913 BC

 

3. Asa

911 BC

 

4. Jehoshaphat

870 BC

 

5. Jehoram

848 BC

 

6. Ahaziah

841 BC

 

7. Queen Athaliah

841 BC

 

8. Joash

835 BC

Joel (guesswork)

9. Amaziah

796 BC

 

10. Uzziah (Azariah)

767 BC

Isaiah (until Hezekiah)

11. Jotham

740 BC

Micah (until Hezekiah)

12. Ahaz

732 BC

 

13. Hezekiah

716 BC

 

14. Manasseh

687 BC

 

15. Amon

642 BC

 

16. Josiah

640 BC

Zephaniah,
Jeremiah (into exile)

17. Jehoahaz

609 BC

 

18. Jehoiakim

609 BC

Habakkuk (approx)

19. Jehoiachin

597 BC

 

20. Zedekiah

597 BC

 

 

592 BC

Ezekiel,
Daniel

 

587 BC (maybe)

Obadiah (to Edom)

 

520 BC

Haggai, Zechariah

(Esther)

478 BC

 

(Ezra)

458 BC

 

(Nehemiah)

445 BC

 

 

433 BC

Malachi

 

 

Culture in Israel and Judah

The land of Israel is commonly known as the land of Moses. The people who lived in the Israel were commonly referred to as the people of Moses. Moses led the Israelites out of slavery, led them to the promise land and spoke the world of the Lord. Although Moses was not considered an actual prophet, he followed the basic guidelines of a biblical prophet. Long after Moses has passed the people of Israel continued to live by his teachings and continued to pass along the words Moses had spoken. “While ordinarily the Old Testament does not give Moses a title, when it does those it gives him are particularly suited to a prophet; that is they conform generally to the nomenclature of prophets elsewhere. According to Psalm the Lord sent Moses to perform “signs” and “wonders.”” (Lierman 33). The northers were in awe of these wonders, and because of this, Moses played a huge role in the cultural identity of the north.

After the split of the northern and southern kingdoms, the southern kingdom wanted a new cultural identity. They did not want to continue being known as the people of Moses. Although the kingdom of Judah did follow the teachings of Moses, the people of Judah referred to themselves now as the people of David. David won the hearts of his people when he famously brought The Ark to Jerusalem. “David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets”. (2 Samuel 6.) The people of Judah lived their lives based on the word of David. David was a great military leader and economical king. The people felt a great sense of pride for David, and passed along his word for many years after David’s passing. The culture in the south differed greatly from the based on the fact that Moses no longer had such a prominent role in the eyes of the people. Moses was not as culturally important as David now was.

Isaiah

In the introduction to Isaiah, the Anselm Academic Study Bible gives light to some political and geographical information pertaining to the time of Isaiah.  It also provides information on the most prevalent prophecy given to Isaiah including how Isaiah is split into three different sections over the period of the Exile.

  • Prophesied from 740 BCE – 480 BCE
  • Began in the last days of Uzziah, king of Judah
  • His call to prophesy was having a hot coal brought to his lips to purify them.
  • Major threat of his time was Assyria
  • Major events:
  1. Syro-Ephraimite crisis – attack from Tiglath-Pilesar III, who was a large threat to Judah between 734 BCE and 732 BCE.
  2. Northern Kingdom of Israel rebels against Assyria started in 722/721 (see 1.a. under the section "A History of the Southern Kingdom")
  3. After Hoshea rebelled, Assyria laid siege to Samaria (Israel’s capital) for three years.
  4. Siege of Jerusalem in 701 BCE, Hezekiah was ruler of Judah – he started a religious reform and rebelled against Assyria with the help of Egypt. (see 3.a. under the section "A History of the Southern Kingdom")
  • Isaiah delivered a message to Hezekiah that Assyria would retreat and Jerusalem would not be destroyed.
  • Babylon destroyed the temple and burned Jerusalem in 587 BCE – Isaiah assured the people God had not abandoned them.
  • Isaiah tells of a new era.
  • 539 BCE Cyrus claims the exile is over
  • Isaiah is divided into three sections: 1-39, 40-55, and 56-66
  • Isaiah is the work of many authors and editors
  • Isaiah is best known for his idea of “The Suffering Servant”
    • For more information about Second Isaiah, see 7.a under the section "A History of the Southern Kingdom".
  • (Dempsey, 2013, The Book of Isaiah Introduction)

In the book The Lion has Roared, chapter 12 “Isaiah, Prophet of the Lord Who Heals His people and Restores Their Land” is written by Hennie Kruger.  She specializes in the description of the theology contained in Isaiah: God is Lord, God’s kingship and throne, The Holy One of Israel, YHWH and the gods, The Servant of the Lord (because Isaiah specialized the suffering servant), and Eschatology (concerning death, judgment, and final destiny of humankind).

Jeremiah

The introduction of Jeremiah in the Anselm Academic Study Bible describes the history surrounding Jeremiah’s days of prophecy.  It exemplifies the fact that the people of Judah were in religious turmoil and questioning whether or not God was still with them.  Kathleen O’Connor discusses Jeremiah’s world in her article “The prophet Jeremiah and exclusive loyalty to God”.  She states that, “Jeremiah's world is a place of disaster. Disaster created the book and led to Jeremiah's prophetic calling. No matter when the book received its final form, the tragic events surrounding and following the Babylonian invasions of Judah (597,587,582 B.C.E.) mark its every passage. Every poem, narrative, sermon, or symbolic act of Jeremiah relates to the Babylonian invasions one way or another, either announcing them, explaining them, or offering hope for surviving them” (O’Connor 2005).  Jeremiah’s life as a prophet revolves around the invasion of Judah by Babylon and the subsequent exile.

Basic Facts

  • Lived between 627 BCE and 581 BCE
  • Comes from a priestly family in Anathoth, a village of Northern Jerusalem
  • He remained unmarried and childless and is known as “The Weeping Prophet”
  • He was called to be a prophet in the years of Josiah, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah
  • His call: In a vision, the Lord places his hand on Jeremiah’s mouth and declares “I place my words in your mouth.”
  • Jeremiah’s prophetic theme: doom and proclamation of hope
  • Lived through three important events:

1.    Religious reform of Josiah (622)

2.    Destruction of Jerusalem and collapse of Judah (587)

3.    Exile of Judah’s leaders and citizens (587)

  • Jeremiah began preaching when Assyria was declining and Egypt and Babylon were at conflict
  • Encouraged people not to give up while in exile, but to continue living their life as they normally would
  • Started the idea that God could be found by looking inside yourself, instead of only at the Temple of Jerusalem
  • People of Judah turned from Yahweh during this time

Prophesies:

            Jeremiah’s enacted prophesies are some of his most important.  One such prophecy is when Jeremiah smashes a clay pot on the ground, saying that “Yahweh will break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended” (Jer. 19:11).  In this case, the symbolism is obvious that the pot is the country of Judah, and its people will be broken apart and sent into exile.

            Another important enacted prophecy from Jeremiah is when Jeremiah wears a wooden yoke around his neck to symbolize that Judah needs to submit to Babylonian rule.  This view is unpopular among the ruling class and other prophets, who eventually come take the wooden yoke off of Jeremiah and smash it, in an attempt to show that Judah will resist Babylonian rule.  However, Jeremiah comes back with an iron yoke, designed to show it is God’s will that the people of Judah submit to Babylon.

Ezekiel

Anselm Academic Study Bible and Matthew’s introduction to Ezekiel, describe his life and emphasize the fact that Ezekiel uses many symbols through his “enacted prophecies” and his many visions. One of Ezekiel’s visions describe him with God in a valley of dry bones, whom are symbolizing the people of Judah.

  • 592 BCE: Ezekiel fulfills his priestly duties at the age of thirteen
  • Book of Ezekiel is in chronological order
  • His call was to eat the scroll written by God.  God recreates Ezekiel at this time by infusing him with the divine spirit
  • Taken to Babylon as an exile
  • Lived through the Babylonian exile, destruction of the first temple of Yahweh, and the obliteration of the Judahite state as a   political entity.
  • Ezekiel lost his wife, God forbade him to mourn as a symbol of God’s plan to let His temple be destroyed
  • Ezekiel was an extremely symbolic prophet
  • Scene of the dry bones coming back to life by the power of God (Dry bones being Judah).
  • Last oracle in book is from 571 BCE

The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones entails Ezekiel seeing himself standing in a valley full of human remains. God commands Ezekiel to carry a prophecy. Ezekiel then witnesses the human figures come together and become covered with flesh, tendons, and skin. These human bodies symbolize the People of Israel whom are in exile.Then, during this Vision, God also shows Ezekiel two sticks and how they are to symbolize God’s plan for the future and describes how the two sticks represent Judah and Israel unifying once more. Which will be reigned by a descendent of David once more. (The idea of creating peace and harmony between the nations). “In 24:16-24 Ezekiel himself symbolizes the nation of Israel as a whole, and in a similar way the sticks of Ezekiel 37:15-28 must represent the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, a representation strengthened by a metaphoric connection of sticks with scepters” (Keck, 1990).

Enacted Prophecies – God required Ezekiel to engage in a series of symbolic and often outrageous acts designed to draw attention to him and make an indelible impression on his audience.  (This is connected to the Examples of Enacted Prophecies...)

Examples of Enacted Prophecies:

  • Dispenses his priestly dignity, Ezekiel plays in the dust like a child with toy soldiers, besieging his brick/city and showing how it will be destroyed. (For a grown man, in particular a priest who would ordinarily scrupulously protect his pristine linen robes, to do this must have caused a great deal of muttering by his audience and perhaps accomplished the goal of raising apprehensions about the impending doom for Jerusalem.
  • Laying on his side for 390 days on his right side and 40 days on his left in the streets. His efforts in this case are designed to symbolize the number of years that the people of the northern and southern kingdoms, respectively, will remain in exile.
  • God commands Ezekiel to prepare his meals on an “unclean” fire using human dung, but Ezekiel protests, and God reasonably relents and allows him to prepare his meals with animal dung instead of human. As a priest, he is dedicated his life to maintaining a “clean,” ritually pure existence. This type prophecy was to symbolize the message that the people will face short rations during the siege (4:14-15).
  • Ezekiel shaves his head and beard… and later is told to separate the hair into 3 piles and disperse them into 3 different ways.

1. Into the Wind

2. Into the Fire

3. Into the Water

4. He then retrieves a few hairs and binds them to his prayer shawl, which signifies that only a few of the people, a remnant, will survive (Ezek. 5:3). While the act provides no hope for Jerusalem’s immediate future, it does signal the hope that a few of the righteous will survive the destruction. (Matthews Pg. 162-163)

The Lion has Roared chapter 10 “Ezekiel, Prophet of the Glory of the Lord” by Herrie Van Rooy also focuses on the theology of the Book of Ezekiel being: Ezekiel and the prophetic calling, the crisis of God’s presence, A radical theocentricity, Judgment and restoration, Repentance, Individual responsibility, and The future of the house of David.

References

Peels, H.G.L. & Snyman, S.D.  (Eds.).  (2012).  The Lion Has Roared: Theological Themes in      the Prophetic Literature of the Old           Testament.  Eugene, OR: PickWick Publications

Osiek, C. & Hoppe, L.J.  (Eds.).  (2013).  Anselm Academic Study Bible: New American Bible      Revised Edition.  Winona, MN:            Christian Brothers Publications.

Dempsey, Carol J. (2013). The Book of Isaiah Introduction. Osiek, C. & Hoppe, L.J. (Eds.), Anselm Study Bible: New American Bible Revised Edition (1164-1167). Winona, MN: Christian Brothers Publications.

Finkelstein, Israel. "State Formation in Israel and Judah: A Contrast in Context, A Contrast in Trajectory." Near Eastern Archaeology 62, no. 1 (March 1999): 35-52. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost

O'Connor, Kathleen M. "The prophet Jeremiah and exclusive loyalty to God." Interpretation 59, no. 2 (April 2005): 130-140. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost

Osiek, C. & Hoppe, L.J.  (Eds.).  (2013).  Anselm Academic Study Bible: New American Bible      Revised Edition.  Winona, MN: Christian Brothers Publications.

Peels, H.G.L. & Snyman, S.D.  (Eds.).  (2012).  The Lion Has Roared: Theological Themes in      the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament.  Eugene, OR: PickWick Publications

Creative Commons License

Unless otherwise noted, the content of these guides by Loras College Library, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Some icons by Yusuke Kamiyamane. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.