Israel, Kingdom of


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Israel, Kingdom of

 

(c. 928–722 b.c.), an ancient state in northern Palestine.

The kingdom of Israel was formed after the breakup of the united kingdom of Israel and Judah. Jeroboam I, who ruled from 928 B.C. to 907 B.C., was the founder of the kingdom, which, according to legend, united ten of the 12 tribes of Israel and Judah, and which occupied greater and more fertile territory than the southern kingdom of Judah. The capital of the kingdom of Israel was originally the city of Sikhem (Shekhem; present-day Nablus). The development of agriculture, handicrafts, intermediary trade (the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were located on the main international trade routes), and monetary circulation led to sharp social differentiation, to the dispossession of the small and middle landowners, and to the development of usury and debtor slavery. The prophets Elijah, Amos, and Isaiah angrily denounced the exploiters. Israel maintained intensive economic and cultural ties with Egypt, Phoenicia, and other countries. Uninterrupted wars with the neighboring states, including Judah, sharply weakened Israel economically, while at the same time strengthening the importance of the military elite. Israel’s political history was characterized by instability, the result of acute social and intertribal contradictions, and by the large role of the army, the commanders of which frequently carried out coups d’etat and seized power. A certain stabilization of the economic and political situation of the kingdom was achieved under Omri, who ruled from 882 to 871, and under his successors until 842. A new capital, Samaria, was founded in 876 under Omri, who strengthened economic and political ties with Judah and Phoenicia. The longest reign was that of the Jehu dynasty from 841 to 747. Under Jehu, who ruled from 841 to 814, the kingdom of Israel became a tributary state to Assyria. The Assyrian king Sargon II destroyed Samaria and conquered the territory of the kingdom in 722, and most of the inhabitants were resettled to remote provinces of Assyria.

I. D. AMUSIN

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