30. The Entry of the Israelites into the Promised Land.
The Lord helped Joshua lead the Hebrew people into the Promised Land. When they entered this land, the Israelites had to cross the Jordan River. At God’s command, Joshua told the priests to take the Ark of the Covenant into the river.
No sooner had they wet their feet in the water than the river parted. The water that flowed from the upper reaches of the river came to a stop like a wall, and the lower part of the river flowed down to the sea and all the people crossed over the dry river bed.
After crossing the Jordan River, it was necessary to capture the city of Jericho, which had very high and strong walls. Joshua, by God’s command, ordered the people, with the priests in front with the Ark of the venant, to walk around the city for seven days: once a day for six days, and on the seventh day, the ark was to be carried around seven times. After this, the walls of Jericho crumbled to their foundations at the sound of the priests’ trumpets and the loud cries of all the people. In this way the Israelites took the city.
A great battle with the people of the land of Canaan took place by the city of Gabaon. The Israelites defeated their enemies and put them to flight while God rained stones from heaven on those who were fleeing, so that more perished from the stones than from the swords of the Israelites. The day was coming to an end, but the Israelites had not yet routed their enemies. Joshua then prayed to God and cried out aloud before the people, "Sun, stand still, and moon, do not move..." And the sun did stand still, and night did not come until the Israelites had defeated their enemies.
With God’s help, in six years Joshua conquered the entire Promised Land and divided it by lot among the twelve tribes of Israel. The two sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received the portions of Levi and Joseph. The tribe of Levi served at the tabernacle and was supported by the tithes (ten percent of the income) collected from the people.
Before his death, Joshua commanded in his last testimony that the Israelites firmly preserve the faith in the true God and serve Him in purity and sincerity.
Note: See the Book of Joshua and Deuteronomy, chap. 27.
After the death of Joshua, the Israelites, surrounded by pagans, often forgot God and began to worship idols and indulge in vices. For this, God more than once deprived them of His help and turned them over to the power of the neighboring pagan people. This misfortune brought the Israelites to their senses and forced them to bring their minds back to God again. When they repented, the Lord sent them deliverers who liberated them from the enemy and ruled over them. These chosen ones of God were called judges. In all, the Israelites had fourteen judges.
Amongst the judges Gideon is famous because, with few troops, but with God’s help, he delivered the Israelites from the enemy Midianites, who oppressed the Israelites for seven years. The Israelites had to hide from them in gorges and fortifications. Such a misfortune forced the Israelites to convert and turn to God. Then the merciful Lord sent them a deliverer in the person of Gideon.
One day Gideon prepared to flee from the enemy and threshed the wheat in order to have bread for the road. At that time an angel of the Lord appeared to him and commanded him to gather his troops against the enemy. Gideon, fulfilling the command of God, began to gather his forces and collected thirty-two thousand soldiers. After this Gideon turned to the Lord with a request to give him a sign that the Lord would in fact use him to serve the Hebrew people. Gideon prayed thus, "If there is dew on the fleece alone, and it is dry on all the ground, then I shall know that Thou wilt deliver Israel by my hand" (Judges 6:37).
Gideon’s prayer was heard. On the next day, having got up early, Gideon began to press the fleece and pressed out of it a whole cup of water, as it was covered with dew.
Then again Gideon turned to the Lord with a prayer: "Lord, let not Thine anger be hot against me, let me speak but this once: ...let it be dry only on the fleece and upon all the ground let there be dew" (Judges 6:37-40).
The Lord heard Gideon’s second prayer and did so that night. Only the fleece was dry, and there was dew on all the ground.
Then the Lord said to Gideon, "The warriors that are with thee are too many. I will not give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves before Me, saying, ‘My own hand hath saved me’" (Judges 7:2). Then the Lord commanded Gideon to let all those go home who were fearful. Twenty-two thousand returned, and ten thousand remained with Gideon.
The Lord again said to Gideon, "The people are yet too many," and He commanded Gideon to bring them to the water. At God’s direction, Gideon separated those who drank the water by drawing it up with a cupped hand, from those who drank straight with the mouth as they bowed down to the water. There were 300 men who drank with a cupped hand. The Lord then said to Gideon, "By the 300 men that drank from the hand will I save you."
Gideon took with him the 300 soldiers, provisions, and trumpets and those that remained were sent home.
That night God led Gideon on a visit to the Midianite camp. The Midianites and the Amalekites had settled in the valley in numbers like grasshoppers; their camels were innumerable. There were as many as the sand by the seaside. Gideon, with his servant Phurah, made his way to the Midianite camp and heard one man tell another his dream, that a cake of barley bread tumbled into the Midianite camp, rolled up to a tent and hit it so that the tent fell, toppled over and crumbled.
To this the other soldier answered, "This is nothing else save the sword of Gideon; for into his hand hath God delivered Midian and all the host." And Gideon took heart.
Having returned to his camp, Gideon woke up his troops and gave each man a lamp within a pitcher and a trumpet. He divided them all into three companies and told them to surround the enemy camp and to do whatever his company did and to shout, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon."
When everyone had taken his place, Gideon ordered his company to break the pitchers and with their lamps shining, to blow on their trumpets and cry, "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon." Both the other companies did this as well.
Such fear and terror came over the Midianites that in their great confusion and in the darkness they began to kill each other, and finally they turned in flight. Gideon completely routed them, and with a huge plunder returned home victorious.
After this victory the Israelites offered Gideon and his descendants royal power over them, but he refused it and said, "I will not rule over you neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you" (Judges 8:23).
The judge Samson was famous for his unusual and supernatural strength. Even from his birth, at the instruction of an angel of God, he was consecrated by his parents to God, and as a sign of this he could not cut his hair. One day in a field a young lion attacked him. Samson grabbed the lion by the jaws and tore it to pieces, as if it were a baby goat. Many times, the Philistines, the enemies of the Israelites, attempted to seize him, but always unsuccessfully. Once he tore off new strong ropes with which he was bound. Another time, with an ass’s jaw bone he massacred a thousand Philistines. A third time he carried away on his shoulders the gates of the Philistine city, Gaza, in which they wanted to hold him captive. Finally, a Philistine woman named Delilah, with whom he fell in love, having found out that his strength and power were contained in the long hair on his head, cut off his hair while he was asleep and handed him over to the Philistines. They took him, put out his eyes and imprisoned him in a dungeon. Having fettered him with two bronze chains, they forced him to work for them. In the meantime, the hair on Samson’s head began to grow back, and at the same time his strength began to return, since his soul was cleansed by repentance for his delusions. One day the Philistines brought Samson out during a festival for general reviling in their pagan temple, and they made sport of him. Samson asked the boy who was leading him by the hand, to take him to the two columns on which the whole building rested, so that he could lean against them. Having prayed to God, he pushed against the columns with his hands and dislodged them from their place. The building collapsed. All the Philistines who were there were buried under the ruins of the building, and Samson himself with them.
The Prophet Samuel, from the tribe of Levi, was the last judge of the Hebrew people.
For a long time Samuel’s parents did not have any children. One day, Samuel’s mother, Anna, during ardent prayer before the tabernacle, made a vow to God that if she were to bear a son she would consecrate him to the Lord. Anna’s prayer was heard, and in a year she bore a son. Anna called him Samuel, which means "obtained from God."
When Samuel was a youth, his mother took him to the tabernacle and gave him over to the high priest Eli for the service of God. The high priest Eli was also at that time a judge of the Israelite people.
The high priest Eli had two sons, Hophri and Phineas, who were priests of the tabernacle, but they were depraved people. They celebrated the service to God without reverence and corrupted the people with their misbehavior. Eli saw Samuel’s piety and appointed him to serve in the tabernacle.
Samuel always slept inside the tabernacle, not far from the place where Eli slept. Once Samuel heard a voice in a dream, which called to him, "Samuel, Samuel!"
Samuel immediately ran to Eli and said, "Here I am; you called me."
Eli replied, "I did not call you. Go back to sleep."
Samuel went and lay down, and again the voice called him, "Samuel, Samuel!" A second time Samuel went to Eli, but Eli again replied that he had not called him.
When this was repeated a third time, Eli understood that the Lord was calling the boy and said to him, "Go back to sleep. If the voice again calls you, say, ‘Speak Lord, for Thy servant heareth.’"
Samuel went to sleep and again heard the voice calling him. Samuel replied as Eli had taught him. Then the Lord revealed to Samuel that the whole house of Eli would perish because Eli knew how impiously his sons acted, and he did not control them.
The next day Samuel passed on to Eli what the Lord had said to him. Eli obediently accepted the prediction. Soon Samuel’s prediction was fulfilled.
The Philistines attacked the Israelite troops and killed them. Then Eli, at the request of the Israelite elders, sent the Ark of the Covenant to the camp with his sons, the priests Hophri and Phineas. But the ark did not help the Israelites. They again were massacred by the Philistines. Hophri and Phineas were killed, and the ark was captured. Thus the Lord showed the people that holy things do not help those who do not respect the holy commandments of God. When Eli found out that the ark was seized by the Philistines, he fell over backward from his seat and died.
The Ark of the Covenant, being greatly sacred to the Lord, did not long remain with the Philistines. God Himself convinced them by first mashing their idol Dagon, then sending the inhabitants of that town inful growths on the body. Finally, their fields were destroyed by mice. The frightened Philistines put the Ark of the Covenant in a new chariot, harnessed to it two young cows and let it go out of their land. The cows, without being driven, went by themselves to the Israelite land. The Israelites met the Ark of the Covenant with great joy.
After the high priest Eli, the Prophet Samuel was appointed judge of the Israelite people. Samuel governed the people not only as a judge but also as a prophet of God. He persuaded the Hebrew people to destroy all pagan idols, such as they had, to pray to God for forgiveness, and to fast. All the people repented and said, "We have sinned before the Lord." By Samuel’s prayers the Lord saved the Hebrews from the Philistines. Samuel was strict and just and enjoyed great respect and love from everyone. He governed the people for forty years. In his old age he transferred his authority to his two sons, who accepted presents and judged unfairly. The impatient Hebrews began to ask Samuel to put a king over them, such as other nations had. Samuel tried to persuade the people to remain with their former form of government, but he was unsuccessful. Then Samuel prayed to the Lord, and the Lord said to him, "Listen to the voice of the people in everything that they say to you, for they did not reject you, but they rejected Me as a ruler over them." Then the Lord said that He warned the Israelites that a king would force all the people to serve him, would take the best land for himself, and they would have to give up everything to the king. The people did not heed Samuel’s warning and said, "No, let a king rule over us, and we will be like other nations."
At God’s command, Samuel anointed Saul as king, having poured on his head the consecrated oil, and then the Holy Spirit came down on Saul, and Saul received from above the power to rule the people.
NOTES: See the Book of Judges and I Samuel, chaps. 1-10:1-16.
32. The Story of Ruth.
In the time of the judges, the neighboring pagan peoples were constant enemies of the Israelites. There were occasions though when several pagans from these people accepted faith in the true God, and then the Israelites considered them as their fellow-tribesmen. Such a person was the Moabite Ruth. This is her story.
In Bethlehem, Judah, lived a man, whose name was Elimelech, with his wife Naomi. They had two sons, Mahlon and Chilian. During the famine Elimelech was obliged to move with his family to the land of Moab. There Elimelech soon died. His sons married the Moabites Orpah and Ruth, and after living with them not more than ten years, they both died. The widow Naomi remained with her daughters-in-law.
When Naomi heard that the Lord had sent a rich harvest to the Israelite land, she decided to return to her homeland. She and both her daughters-in-law went.
On the way Naomi began to urge them to return home, saying to them, "Go, return each of you to your mother’s house. May the Lord grant you mercy for the way you dealt with the dead and with me," and she kissed them. The daughters-in-law sobbed and cried and did not want to leave her, but one of them, Orpah, with tears, obeyed Naomi and returned home.
But Ruth said, "Whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die and there will I be buried."
Naomi and Ruth, coming to the land of the Israelites, settled in the town of Bethlehem and lived on the wheat which Ruth picked up from the harvested fields. This was enough for sustenance, since it is written in the Law of God, "And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not wholly reap the corners of thy field, neither shalt thou gather the gleanings of thy harvest; thou shalt leave them for the poor and the stranger" (Lev. 19:9-10).
The Lord God rewarded Ruth for her attachment and respectfulness towards her mother-in-law. The Israelites had a law: if one of them died, not leaving children, then the nearest relative had to marry the widow of the person who died, and the children from this marriage were considered the dead man’s children. This law was called the Levinite Law.
At this time in Bethlehem there lived a rich man, Boaz, a relative of Ruth’s dead husband. According to Levinite Law, Boaz married the poor Moabite Ruth. When a son was born to them, Obed, women said to Naomi, "Blessed be the Lord, Who hath not left thee this day without a kinsmen, that his name may be famous in Israel." Naomi rejoiced and was Obed’s nurse.
In fact Obed’s name was glorified in Israel, for he was the father of Jesse, the father of King David.
Note: See the Book of Ruth.
33. Saul, First King of the Israelites.
Saul was the son of a distinguished Jew by the name of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was tall, among the people he was a whole head higher, and no one of the Israelites was more handsome than he.
Soon after Saul was anointed, Samuel called the people together to elect a king. Lots were cast. The lot fell on Saul, and he was declared king. The people, admiring his height and beauty, cried out, "Long live the King!"
When Saul was made king, Samuel said to all the people: "If ye fear the Lord and serve Him and hearken to His voice and do not resist the mouth of the Lord, and ye and your king that reigns over you follow the Lord, it will be well with you. But if ye do not hearken to the voice of the Lord, and ye resist the mouth of the Lord, then shall the hand of the Lord be upon you and upon your king" (I Samuel 12:14-15).
Saul, in the first years of his reign, acted according to God’s will, showing himself worthy of having been chosen. He gained for himself the people’s love by many victories over the enemy. But when he stopped carrying out God’s commands, having become presumptuous, the Spirit of God left him and Saul became gloomy and cruel.
Samuel grieved over Saul. The Lord said to him, "How long dost thou mourn for Saul? Go to Bethlehem, to Jesse, for I have seen among his sons a king for me." Samuel went to Bethlehem and at God’s direction anointed David, the son of Jesse, from the tribe of Judah, to be king. The Spirit of God descended on David. David was the younger son of Jesse, blond, with beautiful eyes and a pleasant face. He was agile and brave, had a gentle and kind heart and was famed for his fine playing on the harp.
Saul was sick at heart and depressed from the action of an evil spirit. He was advised to divert himself with music, and he was told that in the town of Bethlehem at the house of Jesse was Jesse’s son, David, who could play the harp well. David was summoned to the palace. When he came and played on the harp, Saul became better and more cheerful. Then the evil spirit left him.
Note: See I Samuel, chaps. 10:17-27,11-16.
David’s Victory Over Goliath.
Once, during the reign of Saul, a battle took place between the Israelites and the Philistines. When the forces attacked each other a giant by the name of Goliath appeared from the Philistine camp. He shouted to the Israelites, "Why are ye come forth to set yourselves in battle array against us? Choose for yourselves a man, and let him come down to me. And if he will be able to fight against me and shall smite me, then we will be your servants, but if I should prevail and smite him, ye shall be our servants, and serve us" (I Sam. 17:8-9). For forty days, in the morning and the evening, this giant appeared and laughed at the Israelites, reviling the army of the living God. King Saul promised a huge reward to anyone who could defeat Goliath, but no one of the Israelites was of a mind to set himself against the giant.
At this time David came to the Israelites’ camp to visit his older brothers and brought them food from their father. Having heard what Goliath said, David volunteered to fight with this giant and asked the King to give him permission.
But Saul said to him, "Thou art a mere youth, and he a man of war from his youth."
David replied, "Thy servant was tending the flock for his father, and when a lion came and a she-bear and took a sheep out of the flock, then I went forth after him and smote him and drew the spoil out of his mouth. And as he rose up against me, then I caught hold of his throat, and smote him and slew him. The Lord Who delivered me out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear, He will deliver me out of the hand of this uncircumcised Philistine."
Saul agreed and said, "Go, and the Lord be with thee."
David placed five smooth stones in his shepherd’s bag, took a sling, and went out against Goliath. Goliath looked at David, who was very young, with contempt, and mockingly said, "Am I as a dog, that thou comest against me with a stick and stones?"
David replied, "Thou comest to me with sword and with spear and with shield, but I come to thee in the name of the Lord God of hosts, of the army of Israel which thou hast defied this day. And the Lord shall deliver thee this day into my hand… and all the earth shall know that there is a God in Israel" (I Sam. 17:45).
When Goliath began to approach, David ran to meet him, laid a stone in the sling and hurled it at the giant. The stone hit him right on the forehead, and Goliath fell senseless to the ground. David ran up to Goliath, took Goliath’s own sword and with his own weapon cut off his head. When they saw this, the Philistines, terror-stricken, took to their heels and the Israelites chased them to the very gates of their cities and killed many. Saul made David the military leader. Then he gave his daughter to him in marriage.
When Saul and David returned victorious, the Israelite women came out to meet them singing and dancing, and they cried, "Saul has smitten his thousands, and David his ten thousands." This was unpleasant for King Saul. He began to envy David’s glory and pondered on killing him. David withdrew to the desert and hid from Saul until his death.
Note: See I Samuel, chaps. 16-31.
34. King David.
After the death of King Saul, David became the King of the Hebrew people. David, who was meek and pious, steadfastly believed in the true God and tried to do His will. He had endured much persecution from Saul and other enemies but did not become embittered, did not lift his hand against Saul, as he was the Lord’s anointed, but placed all his hope in God, and the Lord delivered him from all his enemies.
But it came about that David fell into great sins. Then he repented to the depth of his soul for them. At night he washed his couch with tears, and afterwards improved himself and loved God more and more.
Thus once towards evening, King David went for a walk on the roof of his house and saw a very beautiful young lady. David wanted to have her as his wife. He found out that this lady was called Bathsheba and that she was the wife of Urias the Hittite (cf. II Sam. 11:2). At that time Urias was at war (the war then was with the Ammonites). David very much desired the death of Urias. The King could not get rid of this evil, sinful desire and ordered the military commander to place Urias in the front during the battle so that he would be killed. David’s wish was fulfilled. Bathsheba, discovering that her husband was dead, wept for him.
When the time of mourning came to an end, King David sent for Bathsheba and took her into his house, and she became his wife. Thus King David accomplished a great evil, a two-fold sin, before the eyes of God. Soon Bathsheba bore a son, but David did not notice that he had committed a great sin in the eyes of God.
Then, at God’s command, the Prophet Nathan went to King David and said, "There were two men in one city, one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds, but the poor man had only one little ewe lamb, which he had purchased, and preserved and reared. It grew up with him and his children together, ate of his bread and drank of his cup, slept in his bosom and was to him as a daughter. Once a traveler came to the rich man, and he took not a lamb from his own flocks to slaughter for the traveler, but he took the poor man’s lamb and slaughtered it for the guest."
King David became very angry with this person and said to Nathan, As the Lord lives the man that did this thing shall surely die. And he shall restore the lamb seven-fold because he had no compassion."
Then Nathan said to David, "Thou art the man that has done this. Thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘I anointed thee to be king over Israel, and I rescued thee out of the hand of Saul. Why hast thou set at nought the word of the Lord? Thou hast taken the wife of Urias to be thy wife, and thou hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall not depart from thy house for ever. I will raise up against thee evil out of thine own house.
Then David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord."
Nathan replied, "The Lord has taken away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Thy son that is born to thee shall surely die." With this the Prophet Nathan departed to his house.
David understood how evilly he had acted and deeply repented. With tears he prayed to God, and fasted and lay on the ground. On the seventh day the child died.
Great was David’s sin, but his repentance was sincere and deep, and God forgave him. During the time of his repentance, King David wrote the Psalm of repentance, the 50th Psalm, which is a model of repentance and begins with these words, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to Thy great mercy; and according to the multitude of Thy compassions blot out my transgression. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…"
For the great faith, meekness, and obedience of King David, the Lord blessed his reign and helped him in everything. He successfully waged wars with neighboring peoples.
David captured the city of Jerusalem and made it the capital of the Israelite kingdom. Instead of the dilapidated tabernacle of Moses, he placed in Jerusalem a new tabernacle and brought the Ark of the Covenant to it with solemnity. David wanted to build a permanent temple but the Lord said, "Thou shalt not build a house to my name because thou hast carried on great wars and hast shed blood abundantly. Thy son will build a house to My name, who will be king after thee" (I Chron. 22:6).
But at that time the Lord announced to David, "Thy kingdom will stand forever" (I Chron. 28:7). This meant that from his descendants would come the Saviour of the world, Christ, Who would reign forever. We know that Jesus Christ was often called the Son of David.
David wrote many sacred songs, or psalms, which he sang in prayer to God, playing on the harp or other musical instruments. In these hymns, David appealed to God, repented for his sins before God, celebrated the greatness of God, and foretold the coming of Christ and the suffering which Christ would undergo for us. Therefore, the holy Church calls Kind David a psalmist and prophet.
The Psalms of David are often read and sung in church at Divine Services. The sacred book in which all these psalms or songs are found is called the Psalter. The Psalter is the most frequently used book of the Old Testament. Many Christian prayers are composed with words from the psalms in this book.
David reigned for forty years and died a very old man. While still alive he appointed his son Solomon as his heir. The high priest Zadok and the Prophet Nathan anointed him King. Before his death David bequeathed to Solomon his wish that the Temple of God be built without fail.
Note: See II Samuel and I Chronicles.
35. King Solomon.
When Solomon ascended the throne, he brought a thousand offerings to God. One night after this God appeared to him in a dream and said, "Ask what you wish, and I shall give thee."
"Lord," replied Solomon, "thou hast made me King, and I am but a little child. Now give me wisdom and understanding, that I may govern this people."
Solomon’s reply was pleasing to the Lord. And the Lord said: "Because you have not asked of Me long life, nor riches, nor victory over enemies, but have asked wisdom, in order to rule the people, I will give you wisdom so that there was none like you before, neither will be. And because you did not ask for it, I will give you riches and glory. And if you will keep My commandments, I will also give you life" (I Kings 3:5-9; II Chron. 1:7).
Solomon showed his wisdom above all in passing judgments. Soon after his accession, two women appeared before him for judgment. They lived in one house and each had a child. One night one of them crushed her child and laid it beside the other woman and took that woman’s living child for herself. In the morning the women began to argue. "The living one is my son, and the dead one is thy son," each said. Thus they disputed before the King. Having heard them, Solomon decreed, "Fetch asword."
A sword was brought to the King. Solomon said, "Divide the live child in two and give half of it to one, and half of it to the other."
At these words one of the women cried, "I pray thee, my Lord, give her the child, and in no wise slay it."
But the other said, "Let it be neither mine nor hers; divide it."
Then Solomon said, "Give the child to her that said, ‘Give it to her, by no means slay it’; she is its mother."
The people heard about this and began to fear the King because everyone saw what wisdom God had given him.
Solomon expressed his wisdom both in ruling the people and in all other matters that concerned the king. His glory spread beyond the borders of the Israelite land to other neighboring peoples.
Fulfilling the wish of his father David, Solomon set about building the Temple of God in Jerusalem. A site for it was chosen on Mt. Moriah, which had been indicated to David and on which Abraham had brought Isaac to sacrifice. About 185,000 workers constructed the Temple in seven and a half years. It was built according to the model of Moses’ tabernacle, and divided into the Holy of Holies, sanctuary and courtyard, but it was more spacious and more magnificent. The walls of the Temple were made of stone, on the outside they were covered with white marble and on the inside with gold. All the appurtenances of the Temple for religious services were made of gold.
When the Temple was ready, Solomon summoned all the elders and many of the people for its consecration. To the sound of trumpets and the singing of spiritual songs the Ark of the Covenant was brought in. The glory of the Lord, in the form of a cloud, filled the Temple so much that the priests could not continue the service. Then Solomon went up to his royal place, fell on his knees, and with uplifted hands prayed to God that in this place He would accept the prayers not only of the Israelites, but also of Gentiles. When he finished this prayer, fire came down from Heaven and consumed the sacrifices which had been prepared in the Temple.
Solomon’s reign was peaceful and happy. People came from faraway lands to Jerusalem to see the King and hear his wisdom. The Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s glory and came to put him to the test with riddles. After being convinced of his wisdom, she said "Blessed be thy God, Who has taken pleasure in thee, to set thee upon the throne of Israel" (I Kings 10:9).
Before the end of his life, Solomon began to sin before God. He had many wives; there were pagans among them. For them, he built pagan temples and himself went there.
Then the Lord took away His blessing from Solomon, and riots and rebellions began against him among the Hebrew people. Solomon understood that this was God’s punishment for his sins and began to repent. But his repentance was not so full from his heart as David’s had been. Therefore, although the Lord forgave him and preserved his kingdom during his life, still He announced through a prophet that after the death of Solomon the Israelite kingdom would be split in two, and Solomon’s son would inherit the smaller part.
Note: See I Kings, chaps. 3-11; I Chron., chaps. 22, 28, 29; II Chron., chaps. 1-9.
36. The Division of the Kingdom into Two:
Judah and Israel.
After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam ruled. He spoke severely to the people. "My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions," (scorpions — whips at the end of which were clusters of threaded metallic nuts).
A large part of the Israelite kingdom then rose up against Rehoboam. Ten of the Israelite tribes separated from Rehoboam, chose for themselves Jeroboam, from the tribe of Ephraim, as King and made up a special kingdom which began to be called Israel. Two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, remained with Rehoboam and formed the Judean kingdom. The Israelites from this kingdom began to be called Jews.
In this way the Kingdom of Israel was divided into two: Judah and Israel. The city of Jerusalem remained the capital of the Judean kingdom, and the city of Samaria became the capital of Israel.
On great feasts the inhabitants of the Israelite kingdom went to worship God in the Temple in Jerusalem which did not please King Jeroboam. He was afraid that his subjects would become close friends with the Jews and would join the Judean kingdom. So that they would no longer go to Jerusalem, Jeroboam placed in two cities of his kingdom two golden calves and announced to the people, "There is no need for you to go to Jerusalem. Here are your gods which brought you out of Egypt." All the Israelite people began to worship these idols, instead of the true God, and after Jeroboam all the kings of the Israelite kingdom were godless, profane idolaters. They made the whole Israelite people impious.
In the Judean kingdom all the kings came from the line of David, but few of them were kind or pious. The people, imitating the impious kings, sinned much before God. To make the Hebrew people, both the Judeans and the Israelites, come to their senses, the Lord sent many prophets.