The years of Israel’s three first kings fall into the late Bronze Age collapse. This is listed on the Bible Timeline between 1104 BC, and 979 BC. It was at a time of great upheavals and their combined reigns span more or less 122 years. During this, the Sea People raided the coasts of the Mediterranean. The Mycenaean, and Hittite kingdoms had also collapsed, and trades routes across the Levant were disrupted. Few kingdoms remained intact during this period, but it also saw the rise of Israel as a unified nation.
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After the death of Joshua, the Israelites were a confederation of tribes which had no central authority. They were beset by hostile neighbors, and on one occasion, descended into civil war, as shown in the last chapters of Judges. This continued until the time of Samuel, Israel’s last significant judge, and the appointment of Saul as their first king. This was after the leaders of the tribes asked for someone to rule over them.
Samuel, however, warned them against forming a kingdom and having a king rule over them (1 Samuel 10). He cautioned them that installing a king would mean conscription (1 Samuel 8:11-12), enslavement (1 Samuel 8:12-13), and taxation (1 Samuel 8:14-18).
Samuel’s ambivalence toward the kingship was evident in the succeeding chapters (1 Samuel 10:17-19 and chapter 12), and his warnings would ring true during and after Solomon’s reign (1 Kings 12). But the Israelites were adamant on having a king and Saul was later on proclaimed as such. Making the nation’s structure of government similar to Canaan, Mesopotamia, and Egypt.
Saul (42 or 40 years; 1 Samuel 13:1 and Acts 13:21)
Saul was first anointed as king by Samuel and acclaimed as king by the drawing of lots at Mizpah. Then proclaimed as king by the people after the battle with the Ammonites.
His reign started out as promising but went downhill after his disobedience during the war with the Philistines and Amalekites. It was marked with constant skirmishes and all-out wars against Israel’s neighbors, as well as a struggle between him and the future King David.
He was undoubtedly a courageous leader in battle and a good military strategist, but he was also known as someone who was mentally unstable. His erratic behavior and paranoid tendencies caused him to lose kingship. He reigned approximately 42 years (or 40 years), and it ended when he, along with his sons, died in the battle of Mount Gilboa against the Philistines.
David (40 years; 2 Samuel 5:4)
Saul was rejected by the Lord for his disobedience after he failed in purging the Amalekites by sparing King Agag and keeping the booty. Samuel mourned for Saul, but the Lord commanded him to anoint David as a replacement. The shepherd boy from Bethlehem was also a talented harpist and started out in Saul’s court playing for the tormented king to soothe him during his irrational fits.
David became well-known when he killed the giant Philistine warrior Goliath. A struggle for power between David and Saul ensued after David’s military successes and growing popularity. Saul made repeated attempts at ending David’s life. David also had many opportunities when he could easily have killed Saul but did not. David was proclaimed as king of Judah after Saul’s death, but the northern tribes of Israel remained loyal to the house of Saul until the assassination of his son Ishbosheth.
David first ruled in Hebron for seven years and six months. He also ruled in Jerusalem for thirty-three years after capturing the city from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5). He made significant military victories against the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and Arameans (2 Samuel 8). These military victories paved the way for economic prosperity which heightened during the time of Solomon’s reign.
However, he was also known by civil war and strife in his own household. Such as his adultery with Bathsheba, the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah, Amnon’s rape of his half-sister Tamar, and two of his sons’ attempt at usurpation of the throne. David’s legacy was his poetry, music, military skills, and political shrewdness. Solomon, with the help of his mother Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan, was appointed as king when his father died.
Solomon (40 years)
Israel experienced a golden age during Solomon’s reign. Which he reaped from the military victories of his father. His period was marked by prosperity and relative peace. Solomon was known for his wisdom and writings which were recorded in Proverbs and Song of Songs. His kingdom’s success meant that he could afford to build great architectural projects, and he did this by building lavish palaces for himself and a temple for the Lord.
Solomon was known to have taken many wives including the daughter of the Pharaoh. This formed an important alliance with Egypt and Israel. In 1 Kings 11, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines from Israel and neighboring nations who led him to worship other gods. This angered the Lord, prompting Him to break the covenant He had with David and dividing the kingdom during the reign of Solomon’s son Rehoboam. Solomon also had minor adversaries in Hadad of Edom and Rezon king of Damascus.
Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials, rebelled against him during the last years of the king’s reign. After Solomon had attempted to kill Jeroboam and the latter’s exile in Egypt, Jeroboam returned and successfully ruled over the 10 tribes of Israel, leaving Rehoboam to rule over Judah.
http://www.britannica.com/topic/Sea-People http://www.dartmouth.edu/~prehistory/aegean/?page_id=615 http://www.ancient.eu/hittite/
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