A total of 586 years of independence

Kingdom of Israel (1047 BCE–930 BCE)

The United Monarchy is the name given to the Israelite kingdom of Israel and Judah, during the reigns of Saul, David and Solomon, as depicted in the Hebrew Bible. This is traditionally dated between 1047 BCE and 930 BCE. On the succession of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, around 930 BCE, the biblical account reports that the country split into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Israel (including the cities of Shechem and Samaria) in the north and the Kingdom of Judah (containing Jerusalem) in the south.

The United Monarchy was accepted on an archaeological basis until Israel Finkelstein published two essays proposing a Low Chronology. This stratigraphic model posited that what was otherwise taken as abundant archaeological evidence for a United Monarchy in the 10th century BC should instead be dated to the 9th century BC. This model also places David in the Iron I period, which would suggest that he was not a king of a centralized kingdom but a chieftain over a small polity in Judah, disconnected from the tribes of the northern kingdom. Archaeologists have since fiercely debated regarding whether or not to accept the Low Chronology.

Since this debate began, Amihai Mazar proposed the Modified Conventional Chronology which places the beginning of the Iron IIA period in the early 10th century and its end in the mid-9th century. Amihai Mazar has strongly argued against Finkelstein’s views. Today, the consensus of archaeologists is in favour of Mazar’s Modified Conventional Chronology. Recent archaeological discoveries by Eilat Mazar in Jerusalem and Yosef Garfinkel in Khirbet Qeiyafa seem to support the existence of the United Monarchy. In the Jewish Study Bible (2014), Oded Lipschits states the concept of United Monarchy should be abandoned, while Aren Maeir states the dire lack of evidence about the United Monarchy.

Northern Kingdom of Israel (930 BCE–c. 720 BCE)

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Kingdom of Israel was one of two successor states to the former United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. Historians often refer to the Kingdom of Israel as the “Northern Kingdom” or as the “Kingdom of Samaria” to differentiate it from the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Some scholars (most notably Israel Finkelstein) have challenged the biblical account that the northern kingdom of Israel broke off from a united monarchy with the southern kingdom of Judah, suggesting instead that the northern Kingdom of Israel developed independently of Judah, and that it first reached the political, economic, military and architectural sophistication of a kingdom under the Omride dynasty around 884 BCE. However, this opinion is rejected by other scholars (most notably William G. Dever and Amihai Mazar), who believe that the biblical account on the formation of the two kingdoms is to be considered as accurate, although with embellishments and exaggerations.

The Kingdom of Israel existed roughly from 930 BCE until 720 BCE, when it was conquered by the Neo-Assyrian Empire. The major cities of the kingdom were Shechem, Tirzah, Samaria (Shomron), Jaffa, Bethel and Dan.

Kingdom of Judah (930 BCE–587/586 BCE)

The Kingdom of Judah was an Iron Age kingdom of the Southern Levant. The Hebrew Bible depicts it as the successor to the United Monarchy, a term denoting the Kingdom of Israel under biblical kings Saul, David and Solomon and covering the territory of two historical kingdoms, Judah and Israel. However, some scholars, including Israel Finkelstein and Alexander Fantalkin, believe that the existent archaeological evidence for an extensive Kingdom of Judah before the late 8th century BCE is too weak and that the methodology used to obtain the evidence is flawed. The Tel Dan Stele shows that the kingdom, in some semblance, existed by at least the mid-9th century BCE, but it does little to show to what extent.

In the 10th and early 9th centuries BCE, the territory of Judah appears to have been sparsely populated, limited to small rural settlements, most of them unfortified. Jerusalem, the kingdom’s capital, likely did not emerge as a significant administrative centre until the end of the 8th century BCE. Before then, the archaeological evidence suggests its population was too small to sustain a viable kingdom. In the 7th century BCE its population increased greatly, prospering under Assyrian vassalage (despite Hezekiah’s revolt against the Assyrian king Sennacherib), but in 605 BCE the Assyrian Empire was defeated, and the ensuing competition between the Twenty-sixth Dynasty of Egypt and the Neo-Babylonian Empire for control of the Eastern Mediterranean led to the destruction of the kingdom in a series of campaigns between 597 and 582 BCE, the deportation of the elite of the community, and the incorporation of Judah into a province of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Hasmonean dynasty (140 BCE-37 BCE) (independent 110-63 BCE)

The Hasmonean dynasty was a ruling dynasty of Judea and surrounding regions during classical antiquity, from c. 140 BCE to 37 BCE. Between c. 140 and c. 116 BCE the dynasty ruled Judea semi-autonomously from the Seleucid Empire, and from roughly 110 BCE, with the empire disintegrating, Judea gained full independence and expanded into the neighboring regions of Samaria, Galilee, Iturea, Perea, and Idumea. The Hasmonean rulers took the Greek title “basileus, (“king” or “emperor”), and some modern scholars refer to this period as an independent kingdom of Israel. The kingdom was ultimately conquered by the Roman Republic and the dynasty was displaced by Herod the Great in 37 BCE.

The dynasty was established under the leadership of Simon Thassi, two decades after his brother Judas Maccabeus (יהודה המכבי Yehudah HaMakabi) defeated the Seleucid army during the Maccabean Revolt. According to 1 Maccabees, 2 Maccabees, and the first book of The Jewish War by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (37 CE–c. 100), Antiochus IV moved to assert strict control over the Seleucid satrapy of Coele Syria and Phoenicia after his successful invasion of Ptolemaic Egypt was turned back by the intervention of the Roman Republic. He sacked Jerusalem and its Temple, suppressing Jewish and Samaritan religious and cultural observances, and imposed Hellenistic practices. The ensuing revolt by the Jews (167 BCE) began a period of Jewish independence potentiated by the steady collapse of the Seleucid Empire under attacks from the rising powers of the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.

However, the same power vacuum that enabled the Jewish state to be recognised by the Roman Senate c. 139 BCE was later exploited by the Romans themselves. In 63 BCE, the kingdom was invaded by the Roman Republic, broken up and set up as a Roman client state.

Hyrcanus II and Aristobulus II, Simon’s great-grandsons, became pawns in a proxy war between Julius Caesar and Pompey the Great. The deaths of Pompey (48 BCE) and Caesar (44 BCE), and the related Roman civil wars temporarily relaxed Rome’s grip on the Hasmonean kingdom, allowing a brief reassertion of autonomy backed by the Parthian Empire. This short independence was rapidly crushed by the Romans under Mark Antony and Octavian.

The dynasty had survived for 103 years before yielding to the Herodian dynasty in 37 BCE. The installation of Herod the Great (an Idumean) as king in 37 BCE made Judea a Roman client state and marked the end of the Hasmonean dynasty. Even then, Herod tried to bolster the legitimacy of his reign by marrying a Hasmonean princess, Mariamne, and planning to drown the last male Hasmonean heir at his Jericho palace. In 6 CE, Rome joined Judea proper, Samaria and Idumea (biblical Edom) into the Roman province of Judaea. In 44 CE, Rome installed the rule of a procurator side by side with the rule of the Herodian kings (specifically Agrippa I 41–44 and Agrippa II 50–100).

Herodian dynasty (47 BCE-100 CE)

The Herodian dynasty was a royal dynasty of Idumaean (Edomite) descent, ruling the Herodian Kingdom and later the Herodian Tetrarchy, as a vassal state of the Roman Empire. The Herodian dynasty began with Herod the Great, who assumed the throne of Judea, with Roman support, bringing down the century long Hasmonean Kingdom. His kingdom lasted until his death in 4 BCE, when it was divided between his sons as a Tetrarchy, which lasted for about 10 years. Most of those tetrarchies, including Judea proper, were incorporated into Judaea Province from 6 CE, though limited Herodian de facto kingship continued until Agrippa I’s death in 44 CE and nominal title of kingship continued until 92 CE, when the last Herodian monarch, Agrippa II, died and Rome assumed full power over his de jure domain.

Judean provisional government (66-68 CE)

The Judean provisional government was a short-lived de facto governing entity of Judea, which was established in the year 66 by Judean rebel forces of the Pharisee and Saduccee parties, and aimed to govern the Judean state. The government functioned until the Zealot Temple Siege in the year 68, when most of its leaders were massacred in the inter-rebel struggle.

Bar Kokbha State (132-135 CE)

The Bar Kokhba revolt was a rebellion of the Jews of the Roman province of Judea, led by Simon bar Kokhba, against the Roman Empire. Fought circa 132–136 CE, it was the last of three major Jewish–Roman wars, so it is also known as The Third Jewish–Roman War or The Third Jewish Revolt. Some historians also refer to it as the Second Revolt of Judea, not counting the Kitos War (115–117 CE), which had only marginally been fought in Judea.

The revolt erupted as a result of religious and political tensions in Judea following on the failed First Revolt in 66–73 CE. These tensions were related to the establishment of a large Roman military presence in Judea, changes in administrative life and the economy, together with the outbreak and suppression of Jewish revolts from Mesopotamia to Libya and Cyrenaica. The proximate reasons seem to be the construction of a new city, Aelia Capitolina, over the ruins of Jerusalem and the erection of a temple to Jupiter on the Temple Mount. The Church Fathers and rabbinic literature emphasize the role of Rufus, governor of Judea, in provoking the revolt.

In 132, the revolt led by Bar Kokhba quickly spread from central Judea across the country, cutting off the Roman garrison in Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem). Quintus Tineius Rufus, the provincial governor at the time of the erupting uprising, was attributed with the failure to subdue its early phase. Rufus is last recorded in 132, the first year of the rebellion; whether he died or was replaced is uncertain. Despite arrival of significant Roman reinforcements from Syria, Egypt, and Arabia, initial rebel victories over the Romans established an independent state over most parts of Judea Province for over two years, as Simon bar Kokhba took the title of Nasi (“prince”). As well as leading the revolt, he was regarded by many Jews as the Messiah, who would restore their national independence. This setback, however, caused Emperor Hadrian to assemble a large-scale Roman force from across the Empire, which invaded Judea in 134 under the command of General Sextus Julius Severus. The Roman army was made up of six full legions with auxiliaries and elements from up to six additional legions, which finally managed to crush the revolt.

The Bar Kokhba revolt resulted in the extensive depopulation of Judean communities, more so than during the First Jewish–Roman War of 70 CE. According to Cassius Dio, 580,000 Jews perished in the war and many more died of hunger and disease. In addition, many Judean war captives were sold into slavery. Dio claims that 985 villages were destroyed (probably somewhat exaggerated). The Jewish communities of Judea were devastated to an extent which some scholars describe as a genocide. However, the Jewish population remained strong in other parts of Palestine, thriving in Galilee, Golan, Bet Shean Valley, and the eastern, southern, and western edges of Judea. Roman casualties were also considered heavy – XXII Deiotariana was disbanded after serious losses. In addition, some historians argue that Legio IX Hispana’s disbandment in the mid-2nd century could have been a result of this war. In an attempt to erase any memory of Judea or Ancient Israel, Emperor Hadrian wiped the name off the map and replaced it with Syria Palaestina. However, there is only circumstantial evidence linking Hadrian with the name change and the precise date is not certain. The common view that the name change was intended to “sever the connection of the Jews to their historical homeland” is disputed.

The Bar Kokhba revolt greatly influenced the course of Jewish history and the philosophy of the Jewish religion. Despite easing the persecution of Jews following Hadrian’s death in 138 CE, the Romans barred Jews from Jerusalem, except for attendance in Tisha B’Av. Jewish messianism was abstracted and spiritualized, and rabbinical political thought became deeply cautious and conservative. The Talmud, for instance, refers to Bar Kokhba as “Ben-Kusiba”, a derogatory term used to indicate that he was a false Messiah. It was also among the key events to differentiate Christianity as a religion distinct from Judaism. Although Jewish Christians regarded Jesus as the Messiah and did not support Bar Kokhba, they were barred from Jerusalem along with the other Jews.

State of Israel (1948 CE-present)

Under the British Mandate (1920–1948), the whole region was known as Palestine. Upon independence in 1948, the country formally adopted the name ‘State of Israel’ after other proposed historical and religious names including Eretz Israel (‘the Land of Israel’), Ever (from ancestor Eber), Zion, and Judea, were considered but rejected, while the name ‘Israel’ was suggested by Ben-Gurion and passed by a vote of 6–3. In the early weeks of independence, the government chose the term “Israeli” to denote a citizen of Israel, with the formal announcement made by Minister of Foreign Affairs Moshe Sharett.

The names Land of Israel and Children of Israel have historically been used to refer to the biblical Kingdom of Israel and the entire Jewish people respectively. The name ‘Israel’ (‘struggle with God’) in these phrases refers to the patriarch Jacob who, according to the Hebrew Bible, was given the name after he successfully wrestled with the angel of the Lord. Jacob’s twelve sons became the ancestors of the Israelites, also known as the Twelve Tribes of Israel or Children of Israel. Jacob and his sons had lived in Canaan but were forced by famine to go into Egypt for four generations, lasting 430 years, until Moses, a great-great grandson of Jacob, led the Israelites back into Canaan during the “Exodus”. The earliest known archaeological artifact to mention the word “Israel” as a collective is the Merneptah Stele of ancient Egypt (dated to the late 13th century BCE).

The area is also known as the Holy Land, being holy for all Abrahamic religions including Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the Baháʼí Faith.

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