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ממלכת ישראל המאוחדת
United Kingdom of Israel and Judah

1030 BC–931 BC

Capital Geba (1030–1010 BC), Hebron (1010–1003 BC), Jerusalem
Government Monarchy
 -  1030 BC – 1010 BC King Saul
 -  1010 BC – 1008 BC King Ishbaal
 -  1008 BC – 970 BC King David
 -  970 BC – 931 BC King Solomon
 -  931 BC – 930 BC Rehoboam
Historical era Iron Age
 -  King Saul 1030 BC
 -  King Solomon 931 BC

Different interpretations of what the Bible says about the extent of king David's empire.

This article is about the kingdom of all the Israelites ruled by Saul, David, and Solomon. For the secessionist kingdom of northern Israelites, see Kingdom of Israel (Samaria). For other uses, see Kingdom of Israel (disambiguation).

The united Kingdom of Israel (c. 1050 BC – c. 930 BC) was a kingdom in the Land of Israel according to the Bible, a period referred to by scholars as the United Monarchy.

According to the Bible, before the united monarchy, the Israelite tribes lived as a confederation of twelve tribes under an ad hoc charismatic leadership called Judges. In around 1020 BC, under extreme threat from foreign peoples, the tribes united to form the first united Kingdom of Israel. Samuel anointed Saul from the tribe of Benjamin as the first king in c. 1020 BC, but it was David who in c.1006 BC created a strong unified Israelite monarchy.

David, the second (or third, if Ish-bosheth is counted) King of Israel, established Jerusalem as its national capital 3,000 years ago. Before then, Hebron had been the capital of David's Judah and Mahanaim of Ish-bosheth's Israel, and before that Gibeah had been the capital of the United Monarchy under Saul.

David succeeded in truly unifying the Israelite 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 David, Israel grew into a regional power. Under the House of David, the united Kingdom of Israel achieved prosperity and superiority over its neighbours.

Under David's successor, Solomon, the United Monarchy experienced a period of peace and prosperity, and cultural development. Much public building took place, including the First Temple in Jerusalem.

However, on the succession of Solomon's son, Rehoboam, in c. 930 BC the country split into two kingdoms: Israel (including the cities of Shechem and Samaria) in the north and Judah (containing Jerusalem) in the south. Most of the non-Israelite provinces fell away.


Biblical account

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, son-in-law of Saul through his marriage to Michal and from the tribe of Judah, and Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba.

King David established 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 under Saul. Earlier parts of the bible indicate that Shiloh had been seen as the national capital; which, from an archaeological standpoint, 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 BC. Thiele's chronology generally corresponds with Galil's chronology below with a difference of at most one year.[1]

Albright dates Thiele dates Galil dates Common/Biblical name Regnal Name and style Notes

House of Saul

c.10211000   c.10301010 Saul שאול בן-קיש מלך ישראל
Shaul ben Qysh, Melech Ysra'el
Killed in battle
c.1000   c.10101008 Ishbaal
איש-בשת בן-שאול מלך ישראל
Ishba'al ben Shaul, Melech Ysra'el

House of David

c.1000962   c.1008970 David דוד בן-ישי מלך ישראל
David ben Yishai, Melech Ysra’el
Son-in-law of Saul, brother-in-law of Ish-boseth
c.962c.922   c.970931 Solomon שלמה בן-דוד מלך ישראל
Shelomoh ben David, Melech Ysra'el
Son of David by Bathsheba, his rights of succession were disputed by his older half-brother Adonijah

Origins 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.

Civil war

Map of the southern Levant, c.830s BC.      Kingdom of Judah      Kingdom of Israel      Philistine city-states      Phoenician states      Kingdom of Ammon      Kingdom of Edom      Kingdom of Aram-Damascus      Aramean tribes      Arubu tribes      Nabatu tribes      Assyrian Empire      Kingdom of Moab

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 bible portrays Saul as having died in battle against the Philistines.

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, 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 monarchical 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 on the relationship between the two nations.[2]

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 [1]. 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 square kilometres (13,000 sq mi); of these, the kingdom of Israel encompassed about 24,000 square kilometres (9,300 sq mi).

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 BC, tensions between the northern part of Israel containing the ten northern tribes, and the southern section dominated by Jerusalem and the southern tribes reached boiling point. When Solomon's successor Rehoboam dealt tactlessly with economic complaints of the northern tribes, in about 930 BC (there are difference of opinion as to the actual year) the united Kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms: the northern Kingdom of Israel, which included the cities of Shechem and Samaria, and the southern Kingdom of Judah, which contained Jerusalem; with most of the non-Israelite provinces achieving independence.

The Kingdom of Israel (or Northern Kingdom) existed as an independent state until around 720 BC when it was conquered by the Assyrian Empire; while the Kingdom of Judah (or Southern Kingdom) existed as an independent state until 586 BC when it was conquered by the Babylonian Empire.


According to textual critics, a number of distinct source texts were spliced together to produce the current books of Samuel. The most prominent in the early parts of the first book are the pro-monarchical source and the anti-monarchical source. In identifying these two sources, two separate accounts can be reconstructed. The anti-monarchical source describes Samuel (thought by a number of scholars to be a cipher for God himself) to have thoroughly routed the Philistines, yet begrudgingly accepting that the people demanded a ruler, and thus appointing Saul by cleromancy. The pro-monarchical 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, whereupon he is appointed king.[3]

According to Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman, authors of The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts[2], the idea of a United Monarchy is not accurate history but rather "creative expressions of a powerful religious reform movement," possibly "based on certain historical kernels." Although in a later book Finkelstein and Silberman do accept that David and Solomon were real kings of Judah about the 10th century BCE[4], they cite that the earliest independent reference to the Kingdom of Israel is about 890 BC, while for that of Judah is about 750 BC.


  1. Kenneth Kitchen, How We Know When Solomon Ruled: Israel's Kings, BAR September/October 2001
  2. 2.0 2.1 Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher (2001). The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology's New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts. Simon and Schuster. p. 23. 
  3. This article incorporates text from the 1901–1906 Jewish Encyclopedia, a publication now in the public domain.
  4. David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible's Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition pp20

See also

  • Canaan, land that made up the ancient Jewish Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, along with neighboring areas.
  • The Bible and history
  • Ir Ovot, a period Israelite fortress excavated in the Negev
  • Elah Fortress, archeological area from the time of the United Monarchy

External links