And King Solomon went the way of all mortal men and slept with his fathers.
In 933 BC, his kingdom was divided. The northern kingdom, consisting of the land assigned to the ten northern tribes, took the name Israel and the southern kingdom, the name Judah. The southern kingdom was comprised of the land allotted to the tribe of Judah and a portion of the land occupied by the tribe of Benjamin. Before that time, the tribe of Judah had absorbed the tribe of Simeon and their land.
Sargon II, king of Assyria, the world power at that time, completed the conquest of the northern kingdom of Israel which was begun by his two predecessors, Shalmaneser and Pul, by capturing its capital city of Samaria in 722 BC. He then imposed the Assyrian practise of transportation. Some Israelites were exiled to other parts of the Assyrian empire while colonists from other areas governed by Assyria were settled in Israel. This was a form of cultural genocide which removed solidarity and the threat of national resistance against the Assyrian empire. The intermarriage of the Israelite remnant with the settlers produced a people called Samarians and the land came to be known as Samaria. As for the descendants of the Israelites deported by Sargon II and Pul, they became known as “the lost tribes of Israel.”
When Samaria fell, Hezekiah was king of Judah. After the fall, Sargon's son, Sennacherib, succeeded his father to the Assyrian throne. Hezekiah, supported by Egypt’s pharaoh, decided to test the new monarch and refused to pay his tribute to Assyria. At the same time, the incorrigible Merodach-baladan established himself as king of Babylon. Sennacherib felt the rebellion in the east was far more serious than Hesekiah's act of treason and set his sights on Babylon.
About 701 BC, after Sennacherib quelled the rebellion in Babylon, he turned his attention to Judah. He seized forty-six of Judah's fortified cities and then laid siege against Jerusalem. When Sennacherib's general presented the king of Judah with a letter demanding his surrender, Hesekiah took the letter into the temple, knelt before the Ark of the Covenant, and prayed to the Lord for deliverance. That night the angel of the Lord visited the Assyrian camp and slew 185,000 soldiers. Sennacherib returned to Ninevah where he was subsequently murdered by two of his sons.
Hesekiah, who fell ill after his ordeal, was visited by Merodach-baladan, self proclaimed king of Babylon. He entertained the Babylonian and showed him all the treasures of Judah. When the prophet Isaiah heard about the meeting, he made the following prophecy:
“Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and all that your fathers have laid up in store to this day shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left.
And some of your sons who shall issue from you, whom you shall beget, shall be taken away; and they shall become officials in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
Josiah came to the throne of Judah about 640 BC. The temple had been sadly neglected by his two predecessors, Amon and Manasseh. Manasseh's acts were more wicked than all the kings who preceded or succeeded him for he committed that one, unimaginable sin; he placed an idol in the Holy of Holies. He also filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. The prophet Isaiah was sawed in two during the reign of Manasseh.
Josiah was determined to return his subjects to the worship of the Lord their God. In 623 BC, he hired workmen to repair the damage to the temple. Previously, the Levites had removed the Ark of the Covenant from the desecrated and dilapidated house of God. After the repairs were completed, Josiah commanded the priests to return the Ark to Solomon’s temple.
At that time, a Chaldean governor by the name of Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrian forces at Babylon. The victory resulted in an independent Babylon and gave Nabopolassar the notoriety of becoming the first king of the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) empire. In 612 BC, the new king joined forces with the Medes to defeat the Assyrians at Nineveh, their capital city. The Assyrians then retreated westward to the city of Haran.
Josiah, king of Judah, was pro-Babylonian. When Necho II, pharaoh of Egypt and friend of the Assyrians, sought to join his allies at Haran in their last desperate attempt against the Chaldean and Median forces, he was intercepted by Josiah at the strategic Megiddo Pass. In 609 BC, Josiah was mortally wounded trying to block Necho's passage through the Valley of Megiddon, also known as the apocalyptic Armageddon.
Despite Egypt’s efforts, Assyria was crushed and Babylon began its reign as the most powerful kingdom on earth. And Josiah, the last of Judah’s godly kings, was taken by chariot to Jerusalem and buried in his own tomb where he slept with his fathers.