Ancient Kingdom of Israel: Timeline & Map

Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the ancient Kingdom of Israel. Though most of our documentation comes from the Bible, historians have pieced together a rough history of this fascinating ancient state.

David and Goliath

Just about everyone has heard some variation of the story of David vs. Goliath. Perhaps the world's first underdog story, David defeated the giant Philistine Goliath by slinging just one stone. What many people do not know, however, is that very same David went on to become king of his fellow Israelites, and institute the first ever Kingdom of Israel! David's kingdom existed in some variation for approximately 300 years in the ancient Middle East.

Origins and United Kingdom (c. 1020-922 B.C.)

Whether the story of David vs. Goliath is apocryphal or not, he did succeed in something no Israelite had managed to successfully do to date: unite the tribes of Israel and defeat the Philistines. Prior to the period of the united Kingdom of Israel, Hebrew society in what is today considered Israel and Palestine consisted of twelve tribes run by appointed councils. This arrangement was highly susceptible to internal squabbles and strife, and in the face of outside threats from the Philistines, the tribes chose to appoint a king for all of the twelve tribes, Saul, around 1020 B.C. Saul failed miserably in his kingship, mismanaging affairs and angering the tribes, and soon after his death, his son was displaced by David at approximately 1000 B.C.

David succeeded in uniting the tribes, instituting the first Kingdom of Israel. As king, he defeated the Philistines, consolidated his power by firmly controlling the councils of the tribes and through diplomacy with neighboring states like Egypt. He also instituted a forced labor system to build infrastructure throughout the kingdom. Though David's reign was successful, it pales in comparison to that of his son, King Solomon. Solomon expanded the kingdom to its greatest extent, encompassing nearly all of what is today modern Israel and Palestine, as well as parts of western Syria. Solomon moved the capital of the kingdom to Jerusalem, and in it constructed lavish temples and fortified its walls.

Divided Kingdom (922-721 B.C.)

After the death of Solomon, the unified Kingdom of Israel succumbed to the same infighting that had plagued Saul's reign. Territory was divided along tribal lines, and the kingdom was split into two: the Kingdom of Judah in the south and what remained of the Kingdom of Israel in the north. Jerusalem remained the capital of the state of Judah while a new capital, Samaria, was built in the north.

Kingdoms of Israel and Judah post-division
Kingdoms of Israel and Judah post-division

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