(Isʹra·el) [Contender (Perseverer) With God; or, God Contends].
1. The name God gave to Jacob when he was about 97 years old. It was during the night that Jacob crossed the torrent valley of Jabbok on his way to meet his brother Esau that he began struggling with what turned out to be an angel. Because of Jacob’s perseverance in the struggle, his name was changed to Israel as a token of God’s blessing. In commemoration of these events, Jacob named the place Peniel or Penuel. (Ge 32:22-31; see JACOB No. 1.) Later, at Bethel the change in name was confirmed by God, and from then on to the end of his life Jacob was frequently called Israel. (Ge 35:10, 15; 50:2; 1Ch 1:34) Many of the more than 2,500 occurrences of the name Israel, however, are in reference to Jacob’s descendants as a nation.—Ex 5:1, 2.
2. All the descendants of Jacob, collectively, at any one time. (Ex 9:4; Jos 3:7; Ezr 2:2b; Mt 8:10) As the offspring and descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons, they were quite often called “the sons of Israel”; less often, “the house of Israel,” “the people of Israel,” the “men of Israel,” “the state of Israel,” or the “Israelites.”—Ge 32:32; Mt 10:6; Ac 4:10; 5:35; Eph 2:12; Ro 9:4; see ISRAELITE.
In 1728 B.C.E. famine caused the household of Jacob to travel to Egypt, where, as alien residents, their descendants remained for 215 years. All the Israelites reckoned as “of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt,” not counting the wives of Jacob’s sons, were 70. But during their sojourn there they became a very large society of slaves, totaling perhaps some two or three million or more.—Ge 46:26, 27; Ex 1:7; see EXODUS.
On his deathbed Jacob blessed his 12 sons in this order: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph, Benjamin; and through them the patriarchal tribal arrangement was continued. (Ge 49:2-28) However, during Israel’s period of slavery the Egyptians set up their own overseer system, independent of the patriarchal establishment, designating certain ones from among the Israelites as officers. These kept count of the bricks produced and assisted the Egyptian overlords, who drove the Israelites to work. (Ex 5:6-19) Moses, on the other hand, when making known Jehovah’s instructions to the congregation, did so through “the older men of Israel” who were the hereditary heads of the paternal houses. They were also the ones who accompanied him when appearing before Pharaoh.—Ex 3:16, 18; 4:29, 30; 12:21.
In due time, at the end of the predetermined 400-year period of affliction, in 1513 B.C.E., Jehovah crushed the dominating world power of Egypt and, with a great display of his Sovereign Almightiness, brought his people Israel out of slavery. With them came “a vast mixed company” of non-Israelites who were happy to cast their lot in with that of God’s chosen people.—Ge 15:13; Ac 7:6; Ex 12:38.
Birth of the Nation. Under the covenant made with Abraham, the resultant congregation of Israel was viewed as a single individual, and, therefore, a close relative could reclaim or repurchase them from their slavery. Jehovah was that close relative by this legal covenant, indeed, their Father, and as the rightful Repurchaser he used punitive force to kill Pharaoh’s firstborn for refusing to release God’s “firstborn” son Israel. (Ex 4:22, 23; 6:2-7) Thus legally delivered from Egypt, Israel became the exclusive property of Jehovah. “You people only have I known out of all the families of the ground,” he said. (Am 3:2; Ex 19:5, 6; De 7:6) God now saw fit, however, to deal with them, not strictly as a patriarchal society, but as the nation of Israel, which he created and to which he gave a theocratic government founded on the Law covenant as a constitution.
Within three months after Israel left Egypt it became an independent nation under the Law covenant inaugurated at Mount Sinai. (Heb 9:19, 20) The Ten Words, or Ten Commandments, written “by God’s finger” formed the framework of that national code, to which some 600 other laws, statutes, regulations, and judicial decisions were added. This made it the most comprehensive set of laws possessed by any ancient nation, spelling out as it did in great detail the relationship between man and God, as well as between man and his fellowmen.—Ex 31:18; 34:27, 28.
As a pure theocracy, all judicial, legislative, and executive authority rested with Jehovah. (Isa 33:22; Jas 4:12) In turn, this Great Theocrat delegated certain administrative power to his appointed representatives. The law code itself even provided for an eventual dynasty of kings that would represent Jehovah in civil matters. These kings, however, were not absolute monarchs, since the priesthood was separate from the kingship and independent of it, and in reality the kings sat on “Jehovah’s throne” as his representatives, subject to his directives and discipline.—De 17:14-20; 1Ch 29:23; 2Ch 26:16-21.
Under the constitutional code, worship of Jehovah was placed above everything else and dominated every part of the nation’s life and activity. Idolatry was rank treason punishable by death. (De 4:15-19; 6:13-15; 13:1-5) The sacred tabernacle, and later the temple, with its prescribed sacrifices was the physical center of worship. The God-appointed priesthood had the Urim and Thummim, by means of which answers were received from Jehovah on important and difficult questions of life or death. (Ex 28:30) Regular assemblies of the men, women, and children were provided (compulsory for the men), and they helped to maintain the nation’s spiritual health and unity.—Le 23:2; De 31:10-13.
Provisions were made for a system of judges over “tens,” “fifties,” “hundreds,” and “thousands.” In this way the cases of the people could be handled quickly, and appeals could be made on up to Moses, who could, when necessary, present the matter before Jehovah for final decision. (Ex 18:19-26; De 16:18) The military organization with its conscription of manpower and distribution of command also conformed to a similar numerical system.—Nu 1:3, 4, 16; 31:3-6, 14, 48.
The various civil, judicial, and military offices were filled by the hereditary heads of the tribes—the older men who were experienced, wise, and discreet. (De 1:13-15) These older men stood before Jehovah as representatives of the entire congregation of Israel, and through them Jehovah and Moses spoke to the people in general. (Ex 3:15, 16) They were men who patiently heard judicial cases, enforced the various features of the Law covenant (De 21:18-21; 22:15-21; 25:7-10), abided by the divine decisions already rendered (De 19:11, 12; 21:1-9), furnished military leadership (Nu 1:16), confirmed treaties already negotiated (Jos 9:15), and, as a committee under the headship of the high priest, discharged other responsibilities (Jos 22:13-16).
This new theocratic state of Israel with its centralized authority still retained the patriarchal arrangement of 12 tribal divisions. But in order to relieve the tribe of Levi of military service (so it could devote its time exclusively to religious matters) and still retain 12 tribes having 12 portions in the Promised Land, formal genealogical adjustments were made. (Nu 1:49, 50; 18:20-24) There was also the matter concerning the firstborn rights. Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, was entitled to a double portion in the inheritance (compare De 21:17), but he forfeited this right by committing incestuous immorality with his father’s concubine. (Ge 35:22; 49:3, 4) These vacancies, the vacancy of Levi among the 12 as well as the absence of one with firstborn rights, had to be filled.
In a comparatively simple way Jehovah adjusted both matters by a single act. Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were advanced to full status as tribal heads. (Ge 48:1-6; 1Ch 5:1, 2) Again 12 tribes exclusive of Levi could be numbered, and also a double portion of the land was representatively given to Joseph the father of Ephraim and Manasseh. In this way the firstborn rights were taken away from Reuben, the firstborn of Leah, and given to Joseph, the firstborn of Rachel. (Ge 29:31, 32; 30:22-24) Now with these adjustments the names of the 12 (non-Levite) tribes of Israel were Reuben, Simeon, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, Dan, Asher, Gad, and Naphtali.—Nu 1:4-15.
From Sinai to the Promised Land. Only 2 out of 12 spies sent into the Promised Land came back with faith strong enough to encourage their brothers to invade and conquer. Jehovah, therefore, determined that for this general lack of faith all those more than 20 years old who had come out of Egypt, with few exceptions, would die there in the wilderness. (Nu 13:25-33; 14:26-34) And so for 40 years that vast camp of Israel wandered about in the Sinai Peninsula. Even Moses and Aaron died without setting foot on the Promised Land. Soon after Israel came out of Egypt, a census showed there were 603,550 able-bodied men, but about 39 years later the new generation numbered 1,820 less, or 601,730.—Nu 1:45, 46; 26:51.
During Israel’s nomadic wilderness life Jehovah was a wall of protection around them, a shield from their enemies. It was only when they rebelled against him that he allowed evil to befall them. (Nu 21:5, 6) Jehovah also provided for their every need. He gave them manna and water, gave them a sanitary code by which their health was protected, and even kept their shoes from wearing out. (Ex 15:23-25; 16:31, 35; De 29:5) But in spite of such loving and miraculous care on the part of Jehovah, Israel repeatedly murmured and complained; and from time to time rebels arose to challenge the theocratic appointments, making it necessary for Jehovah to discipline them severely, that the rest might learn to fear and obey their Grand Deliverer.—Nu 14:2-12; 16:1-3; De 9:24; 1Co 10:10.
Israel’s 40-year trek through the wilderness was coming to an end when Jehovah gave the kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, into their hands. With this victory Israel fell heir to a great amount of territory E of the Jordan in which the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh settled down.—De 3:1-13; Jos 2:10.
Israel Under the Judges. Following Moses’ death, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan in 1473 B.C.E. into the land described as “flowing with milk and honey.” (Nu 13:27; De 27:3) Then, in a sweeping six-year campaign, they conquered the territory that had been controlled by 31 kings W of the Jordan, including such fortified cities as Jericho and Ai. (Jos 1 to 12) The coastal plains and certain enclave cities, like the Jebusite stronghold that later became the City of David, were exceptions. (Jos 13:1-6; 2Sa 5:6-9) These God-defying elements that were allowed to remain acted like thorns and thistles in the side of Israel, and intermarriage with them only increased the pain. For a period of more than 380 years, from the death of Joshua to their complete subjugation by David, such worshipers of false gods acted “as agents to test Israel so as to know whether they would obey Jehovah’s commandments.”—Jg 3:4-6.
The newly conquered territory was divided among the tribes of Israel by lot, as Jehovah had commanded Moses. Six “cities of refuge” were set aside for the safety of unintentional manslayers. These, and 42 other cities and their surrounding agricultural land, were allotted to the tribe of Levi.—Jos 13 to 21.
Each city appointed judges and officers in its gates for handling judicial affairs as provided under the Law covenant (De 16:18) as well as representative older men to administer the general interests of the city. (Jg 11:5) Although the tribes maintained their identity and inheritances, much of the centralized organizational control that had been exercised during the stay in the wilderness was gone. The song of Deborah and Barak, the events of Gideon’s warfare, and the activities of Jephthah all reveal the problems of lack of unity in action that arose after Moses and his successor Joshua passed off the scene and the people failed to look to their invisible Head, Jehovah God, for guidance.—Jg 5:1-31; 8:1-3; 11:1–12:7.
With the death of Joshua and of the older men of his generation, the people began to vacillate in their faithfulness and obedience to Jehovah, like a great pendulum swinging to and fro between true and false worship. (Jg 2:7, 11-13, 18, 19) When they abandoned Jehovah and turned to serving the Baals, he removed his protection and allowed the nations around them to move in to pillage the land. Awakened by such oppression to the need for united action, wayward Israel appealed to Jehovah and he, in turn, raised up judges, or saviors, to deliver the people. (Jg 2:10-16; 3:15) There was a whole series of these valiant judges after Joshua, including Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Barak, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson.—Jg 3 to 16.
Each deliverance had a uniting effect on the nation. There were other uniting incidents too. On one occasion when a Levite’s concubine had been wantonly ravished, 11 tribes acted in outraged unity against the tribe of Benjamin, reflecting a sense of national guilt and responsibility. (Jg chaps 19, 20) All the tribes were unitedly drawn to the ark of the covenant in the tabernacle at Shiloh. (Jos 18:1) They therefore felt the loss nationally when the Ark was captured by the Philistines because of the debauchery and misconduct of the priesthood at that time, especially on the part of High Priest Eli’s sons. (1Sa 2:22-36; 4:1-22) With the death of Eli, and with Samuel becoming a prophet and judge of Israel, there was a unifying effect on Israel, as Samuel traveled in a circuit through Israel to handle the questions and disputes of the people.—1Sa 7:15, 16.
The United Kingdom. Samuel was extremely displeased when, in 1117 B.C.E., Israel pleaded: “Do appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” However, Jehovah told Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people . . . for it is not you whom they have rejected, but it is I whom they have rejected from being king over them.” (1Sa 8:4-9; 12:17, 18) Thereupon, Saul the Benjamite was picked as Israel’s first king, and though he began his rule well enough, it was not long before his presumptuousness led to disobedience, disobedience, in turn, to rebellion, and rebellion to his finally consulting a spirit medium—so that after 40 years he proved a complete failure!—1Sa 10:1; 11:14, 15; 13:1-14; 15:22-29; 31:4.
David of the tribe of Judah, a ‘man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart’ (1Sa 13:14; Ac 13:22), was anointed king in the place of Saul, and under his able leadership the nation’s boundaries were extended to the limits promised, from “the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.”—Ge 15:18; De 11:24; 2Sa 8:1-14; 1Ki 4:21.
During David’s 40-year reign various specialized offices were created in addition to the tribal arrangement. There was an inner circle of counselors surrounding the king himself, besides the older men of influence that served the centralized government. (1Ch 13:1; 27:32-34) Then there was the larger departmental staff of the government made up of tribal princes, chiefs, court officials, and military personnel having administrative responsibilities. (1Ch 28:1) For effective handling of certain matters, David appointed 6,000 Levites as judges and officers. (1Ch 23:3, 4) Other departments with their appointed overseers were established to look after the cultivation of the fields and to manage such things as the vineyards and wineries, the olive groves and oil supplies, and the livestock and the flocks. (1Ch 27:26-31) The king’s financial interests were similarly cared for by a central treasury department separate from that supervising the treasures stored elsewhere, as in outlying cities and villages.—1Ch 27:25.
Solomon succeeded his father David as king in 1037 B.C.E. He reigned “over all the kingdoms from the River [Euphrates] to the land of the Philistines and to the boundary of Egypt” for 40 years. His reign was especially marked by peace and prosperity, for the nations round about kept “bringing gifts and serving Solomon all the days of his life.” (1Ki 4:21) The wisdom of Solomon was proverbial, he being the wisest king of ancient times, and during his reign Israel reached the zenith of its power and glory. One of Solomon’s grandest accomplishments was the building of the magnificent temple, the plans for which he had received from his inspired father David.—1Ki chaps 3 to 9; 1Ch 28:11-19.
And yet for all his glory, riches, and wisdom, Solomon ended up a failure, for he allowed his many foreign wives to turn him away from the pure worship of Jehovah to the profane practices of false religions. In the end Solomon died disapproved by Jehovah, and Rehoboam his son succeeded him.—1Ki 11:1-13, 33, 41-43.
Rehoboam, lacking wisdom and foresight, increased the already heavy government burdens on the people. This, in turn, caused the ten northern tribes to secede under Jeroboam, even as Jehovah’s prophet had foretold. (1Ki 11:29-32; 12:12-20) Thus it was that the kingdom of Israel was divided in 997 B.C.E.
For details on the divided kingdom, see ISRAEL No. 3.
Israel After the Babylonian Exile. During the next 390 years following the death of Solomon and the breaking up of the united kingdom and on down to the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., the term “Israel” usually applied only to the ten tribes under the rule of the northern kingdom. (2Ki 17:21-23) But with the return of a remnant of all 12 tribes from exile, and continuing on down to the second destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., the term “Israel” once again embraced the whole of Jacob’s descendants living at that time. Again the people of all 12 tribes were called “all Israel.”—Ezr 2:70; 6:17; 10:5; Ne 12:47; Ac 2:22, 36.
Those who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel and High Priest Joshua (Jeshua) in 537 B.C.E. numbered nearly 50,000 (42,360 Israelites and in addition over 7,500 slaves and professional singers), and these began rebuilding Jehovah’s house of worship. (Ezr 3:1, 2; 5:1, 2) Later others returned with Ezra in 468 B.C.E. (Ezr 7:1–8:36), and still later, in 455 B.C.E., no doubt others accompanied Nehemiah when he came to Jerusalem with the special assignment to rebuild the walls and gates of the city. (Ne 2:5-9) Many Israelites, however, remained scattered throughout the empire, as noted in the book of Esther.—Es 3:8; 8:8-14; 9:30.
While Israel did not return to its former sovereignty as an independent nation, yet it did become a Hebrew commonwealth with considerable freedom under Persian domination. Deputy rulers and governors (like Zerubbabel and Nehemiah) were appointed from among the Israelites themselves. (Ne 2:16-18; 5:14, 15; Hag 1:1) The older men of Israel and the tribal princes continued to act as counselors and representatives of the people. (Ezr 10:8, 14) The priestly organization was reestablished, based on the ancient genealogical records that had been carefully preserved, and with such Levitical arrangement once again in operation, the sacrifices and other requirements of the Law covenant were observed.—Ezr 2:59-63; 8:1-14; Ne 8:1-18.
With the fall of the Persian Empire and the rise of Grecian domination of the world, Israel found itself torn by the conflict between the Ptolemies of Egypt and the Seleucids of Syria. The latter, during the rule of Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), determined to eradicate Jewish worship and customs. His effort reached a climax in 168 B.C.E. when a pagan altar was erected atop the temple altar in Jerusalem and dedicated to the Greek god Zeus. This outrageous incident, however, had a reverse effect, for it was the spark that touched off the Maccabean uprising. Three years later, to the day, victorious Jewish leader Judas Maccabaeus rededicated the cleansed temple to Jehovah with a festival that has since been commemorated by the Jews as Hanukkah.
The century that followed was one of great internal disorder in which Israel was led farther and farther away from the tribal administrative provisions of the Law covenant. It was during this period when home rule by the Maccabeans or Hasmonaeans met with varying fortunes, and when the parties of the pro-Hasmonaean Sadducees and the anti-Hasmonaean Pharisees developed. Finally Rome, by now the world power, was called upon to interfere. General Gnaeus Pompey intervened, and after a three-month siege he took Jerusalem in 63 B.C.E. and annexed Judea to the empire. Herod the Great was appointed king of the Jews by Rome in about 39 B.C.E., and about three years later he effectively crushed the Hasmonaean rule. Shortly before Herod’s death Jesus was born in 2 B.C.E., as “a glory of your people Israel.”—Lu 2:32.
Rome’s imperial authority over Israel during the first century C.E. was distributed among district rulers and governors, or procurators. The Bible mentions such district rulers as Philip, Lysanias, and Herod Antipas (Lu 3:1); as well as Governors Pontius Pilate, Felix, and Festus (Ac 23:26; 24:27); and Kings Agrippa I and II (Ac 12:1; 25:13). Internally, there still remained some semblance of the tribal genealogical arrangement, as is seen when Caesar Augustus had Israelites register in the respective cities of their paternal houses. (Lu 2:1-5) Among the people “the older men” and the priestly Levitical functionaries were still very influential (Mt 21:23; 26:47, 57; Ac 4:5, 23), though they had, to a large degree, substituted the traditions of men for the written requirements of the Law covenant.—Mt 15:1-11.
In such an atmosphere Christianity had its birth. First came John the Baptizer, the forerunner of Jesus, who turned many of the Israelites back to Jehovah. (Lu 1:16; Joh 1:31) Then Jesus and his apostles followed up in the rescue work, laboring as they did among “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” opening blind eyes to the false traditions of men and to the excelling benefits of pure worship of God. (Mt 15:24; 10:6) Yet, only a remnant accepted Jesus as Messiah and were saved. (Ro 9:27; 11:7) These were the ones that joyfully hailed him as the “King of Israel.” (Joh 1:49; 12:12, 13) The majority, refusing to put faith in Jesus (Mt 8:10; Ro 9:31, 32), backed up their religious leaders who cried out: “Take him away! Take him away! Impale him!” “We have no king but Caesar.”—Joh 19:15; Mr 15:11-15.
Time soon proved that this pretended solid fidelity to Caesar was false. Fanatical elements in Israel fomented one revolt after another, and each time the province suffered harsh Roman reprisals, reprisals that, in turn, increased the Jewish hatred of Roman rule. The situation finally became so explosive that the local Roman forces were no longer able to contain it and Cestius Gallus, governor of Syria, moved against Jerusalem with stronger forces to maintain Roman control.
After setting fire to Bezetha, N of the temple, Gallus encamped in front of the royal palace, SW of the temple. At that moment, Josephus says, he could have easily forced his way into the city; his delay, however, strengthened the insurgents. The advance units of the Romans then made a protective covering, like the back of the tortoise, with their shields over themselves and began undermining the walls. Again when the Romans were about to succeed, they withdrew in the fall of 66 C.E. Concerning this withdrawal, Josephus says: “Cestius . . . suddenly recalled his troops, renounced his hopes, without having suffered any reverse, and, contrary to all calculation, retired from the city.” (The Jewish War, II, 540 [xix, 7]) This attack on the city, followed by the sudden withdrawal, furnished the signal and the opportunity for the Christians there to ‘flee to the mountains’ as instructed by Jesus.—Lu 21:20-22.
The next year (67 C.E.) Vespasian set about putting down the Jewish uprising, but Nero’s unexpected death in 68 opened the way for Vespasian to become emperor. So he returned to Rome in 69 and left his son Titus to continue the campaign, and the next year, 70 C.E., Jerusalem was entered and destroyed. Three years later the last Jewish stronghold at Masada fell to the Romans. Josephus says that during the whole campaign against Jerusalem 1,100,000 Jews died, many from pestilence and famine, and 97,000 were taken captive, he says, many being scattered as slaves to all quarters of the empire.—The Jewish War, VI, 420 (ix, 3).
3. The tribes that twice formed a separate northern kingdom of Israel.
The first split in the national government came with the death of Saul in about 1078 B.C.E. The tribe of Judah recognized David as king, but the rest of the tribes made Saul’s son Ish-bosheth king; two years later Ish-bosheth was assassinated. (2Sa 2:4, 8-10; 4:5-7) In time the breach was healed and David became king of all 12 tribes.—2Sa 5:1-3.
Later in David’s reign, when the revolt by his son Absalom had been put down, all the tribes once again acknowledged David as king. Yet, in returning the king to his throne, a dispute arose over protocol, and in this matter the ten northern tribes called Israel were at odds with the men of Judah.—2Sa 19:41-43.
All 12 tribes were united in their support of David’s son Solomon in his kingship. But upon his death in about 998 B.C.E. the second dividing of the kingdom occurred. Only the tribes of Benjamin and Judah supported King Rehoboam, who sat on his father Solomon’s throne in Jerusalem. Israel, consisting of the ten other tribes to the N and E, picked Jeroboam to be their king.—1Ki 11:29-37; 12:1-24; MAP, Vol. 1, p. 947.
At first the capital of Israel was set up at Shechem. Later it was moved to Tirzah, and then during the reign of Omri it was moved to Samaria, where it remained for the next 200 years. (1Ki 12:25; 15:33; 16:23, 24) Jeroboam recognized that unified worship holds a people together, and so to keep the breakaway tribes from going to Jerusalem’s temple to worship, he set up two golden calves, not at the capital, but at the two extremities of Israel’s territory, one at Bethel in the south and the other at Dan in the north. He also installed a non-Levitical priesthood to lead and instruct Israel in worship of both the golden calves and the goat-shaped demons.—1Ki 12:28-33; 2Ch 11:13-15.
In Jehovah’s eyes this was a very great sin that Jeroboam committed. (2Ki 17:21, 22) Had he remained faithful to Jehovah and not turned to such rank idolatry, God would have allowed his dynasty to continue, but as it turned out, his house lost the throne when his son Nadab was assassinated less than two years after Jeroboam’s death.—1Ki 11:38; 15:25-28.
As the ruler went, so went the nation of Israel. Nineteen kings, not counting Tibni (1Ki 16:21, 22), reigned from 997 to 740 B.C.E. Only nine had their own sons succeed them, and only one had a dynasty extending to the fourth generation. Seven of Israel’s kings ruled two years or less; some for only a few days. One committed suicide, four others met a premature death, and six others were assassinated by ambitious men who then occupied the throne of their victims. Whereas the best of the whole lot, Jehu, pleased Jehovah by removing the vile Baal worship that Ahab and Jezebel had sponsored, yet “Jehu himself did not take care to walk in the law of Jehovah the God of Israel with all his heart”; he allowed Jeroboam’s calf worship to continue throughout the land.—2Ki 10:30, 31.
Jehovah, for his part, was certainly long-suffering with Israel. During their 257-year history he continued to send his servants to warn the rulers and the people of their wicked ways, but to no avail. (2Ki 17:7-18) Among these devoted servants of God were the prophets Jehu (not the king), Elijah, Micaiah, Elisha, Jonah, Oded, Hosea, Amos, and Micah.—1Ki 13:1-3; 16:1, 12; 17:1; 22:8; 2Ki 3:11, 12; 14:25; 2Ch 28:9; Ho 1:1; Am 1:1; Mic 1:1.
Israel’s problem of protecting herself against invasion was greater than Judah’s, for though she had double the population, she also had nearly triple the land area to guard. In addition to warring against Judah from time to time, she was frequently at war on her northern and eastern frontiers with Syria and under pressure from Assyria. The final siege of Samaria was begun by Shalmaneser V in the seventh year of Hoshea’s reign, but it took nearly three years before the city was taken by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E.—2Ki 17:1-6; 18:9, 10.
The policy of the Assyrians, inaugurated by Shalmaneser’s predecessor Tiglath-pileser III, was to remove captives from conquered territory and transplant in their place peoples from other parts of the empire. Thus, future uprisings were discouraged. In this instance the other national groups brought into Israel’s territory eventually became intermingled both racially and religiously and were known thereafter as Samaritans.—2Ki 17:24-33; Ezr 4:1, 2, 9, 10; Lu 9:52; Joh 4:7-43.
With the fall of Israel the ten northern tribes were not completely lost, however. Some persons of these tribes evidently were left in Israel’s territory by the Assyrians. Others no doubt fled from Israel’s idolatry to Judah’s territory prior to 740 B.C.E., and their descendants would have been among the captives taken to Babylon in 607 B.C.E. (2Ch 11:13-17; 35:1, 17-19) No doubt there were descendants also from among those taken captive by the Assyrians (2Ki 17:6; 18:11) who were numbered among the returning remnant that made up the 12 tribes of Israel in 537 B.C.E. and thereafter.—1Ch 9:2, 3; Ezr 6:17; Ho 1:11; compare Eze 37:15-22.
4. The Promised Land, or geographic territory assigned to the nation of Israel (all 12 tribes), in contrast with the territory of other nations (1Sa 13:19; 2Ki 5:2; 6:23), and over which Israelite kings ruled.—1Ch 22:2; 2Ch 2:17.
Following the division of the nation “the land of Israel” was at times used to designate the northern kingdom’s territory, distinguishing it from that of Judah. (2Ch 30:24, 25; 34:1, 3-7) After the northern kingdom’s fall the name of Israel was, in effect, kept alive by Judah, the only kingdom remaining of Israel’s (Jacob’s) descendants. Therefore, it is primarily with reference to the land of the Judean kingdom and its capital Jerusalem that the expression “soil of Israel” is used by the prophet Ezekiel. (Eze 12:19, 22; 18:2; 21:2, 3) This was the geographic area that was completely desolated for 70 years from and after 607 B.C.E. (Eze 25:3) but to which a faithful remnant would be regathered.—Eze 11:17; 20:42; 37:12.
For a description of Israel’s geographic and climatic characteristics, as well as its size, location, natural resources, and related features, see the article PALESTINE.