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A Kingdom Divided – The Fall of Israel

The early kingdoms of ancient Israel were unstable at best and completely dysfunctional at worst. Following perhaps the highest political and financial prowess we ever achieved as a nation, the split kingdoms of Israel and Judah represent a pretty rocky time in Jewish history. What lessons can we learn from their mistakes, triumphs, arguments and ultimate survival? 

  • Review
  • Discussion
  • Activities
  • Reflection
  • Further Learning
  1. Who were the judges?
    • They ran the court system in ancient Israel
    • They were spiritual leaders of the tribes of Israel
    • They were a council of elders that chose the king
    • They were representatives from each tribe of Israel
  2. Who were the first two kings of Israel?
    • Shaul (Saul) and David
    • David and Shlomo (Solomon)
    • Shmuel (Samuel) and Shaul
    • Shaul and Shlomo
  3. What was the function of Solomon’s Temple?
    • It was purely ornamental
    • Burial place
    • Drew the presence of God onto the earth through sacrificial worship 
    • A very fancy palace for Solomon’s court
  4. Why did the 10 northern tribes secede from the Kingdom?
    • They disagreed with the southern tribes about slavery
    • They wanted their own Temple
    • They disagreed with King Rechavam (Rehoboam) about his tax policies 
    • They couldn’t settle the Latke-Hamentaschen Debate
  5. How does Eliyahu (Elijah) defeat Jezebel’s idolatrous prophets?
    • He rouses the northern army to kill them
    • He declares a drought and they all die of thirst
    • He challenges them to a contest – whose god will accept a sacrifice?
    • He challenges them to a duel
  1. What patterns do you notice from this time period in Israel’s history?
  2.  What role do the spiritual leaders play in the political scene, beginning as early as Shmuel the Prophet? What is the relationship between the spiritual leaders and the political leaders? Read this article authored by Porfessor Edward T. Harper of the Chicago Theological Seminary for further discussion about the impact of the monarchy on the religious and social life of the Israelite people and the resulting tension between the Nevi’im (Prophets) and the monarchs. The excerpt below summarizes this tension and the role of the Nevi’im. Read it together with students or have them read in small groups before discussing as a group. Students can post on a Padlet wall or debate. Here are a few points to consider as a group:
    • What effect did wealth and prosperity under the rule of kings have on Israelite society?
    • What did the Nevi’im see as the real threat to the future of the Jewish people?
    • What did the Nevi’im view as their role in society?
  3.  One of the major themes of the period of Jewish history spanning from the Judges through the demise of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah is leadership. Many different types of leaders are presented in Sefer Nevi’im (the Book of Prophets) (see this article authored by noted Jewish historian Rabbi Ken Spiro for profiles of several Judges and this article authored by Matt Stefon, religion editor at Encyclopedia Britannica, about King Shlomo). Read a few of the profiles and discuss the following:
    • Are there any shared characteristics that all leaders must exhibit?
    • Which type of leader do you identify with the most?
    • If you were running as the leader of a country, how would you present yourself to potential voters? What platform would you stand on?
  4. Civil war isn’t usually an image that is associated with the Jewish people, although there are examples from various points in our history (think Maccabees and the Hellenists, Zealots vs. Pharisees, Hassidim and Mitnagdim, Zionists vs. Anti-Zionists, and modern interdenominational battles in the 19th and 20th centuries). Is this something that the Jewish people still struggle with today? If so, what do we fight over most? Watch this ELI Talk titled “7 Habits of Highly United Jews.”
    • What are some of the sources of disunity that he identifies?
    • As a class, choose one of his Habits to unpack. What is the solution he offers? How can you take his suggestions and practically apply them?
  1. Utilize this ready made lesson plan on A Kingdom Divided.
  2. Create a comic book of one or several of the stories about the succession of kings. This can be done either by hand or using a program such as these.
  3. As a class, set up a debate about the secession of the northern tribes/division of the kingdom. Each student should represent a different tribe and have a voice in the debate. Questions to consider:
    • What are the benefits and drawbacks of creating a separate kingdom?
    • What is the responsibility of the king to the various tribes? What is the ideal relationship between the tribes?
    • What is the relationship between the tribes and the central place of worship (Solomon’s Temple)? Is it an equitable relationship, and if not, how can it be improved?
  4. Collaborate on an interactive timeline, like this one on Padlet. This activity can have many extensions, including:
    • Each student can choose and focus on a particular event or personality along the timeline and expand the description, based on research.
    • Students can create a parallel timeline of events going on outside of the Jewish world at this period in history. This can spark interesting group discussions about the influence of outside culture on internal events and vice versa.
    • Students can comment on different events/personalities along the timeline with questions, reactions, comparisons, etc.
  5. As a group, read Kings I Chapter 18 and create a skit based on the events of the showdown between Eliyahu the Prophet and the idolatrous prophets of baal. If there are enough students, assign some students to be the “audience,” the people of Israel who were watching the showdown. Debrief after the skit:
    • In what ways were the onlookers impacted (emotionally, spiritually) by what they saw? Put yourself in their shoes.
    • Why do you think Eliyahu orchestrated the challenge in the particular way that he did? What do you think he was hoping for? Did he accomplish his goal(s)
  6.  Give your students our Kahoot on Kingdom Divided!
  1. King Rechavam found himself stuck in a difficult situation when he was advised to either speak gently to the northern tribes and appease them, or to be harsh with them and risk losing their loyalty. (I Kings 12) Reflect on a time when you were harsh with someone else (or yourself) and later regretted it. How did it impact your relationship with them? What did you do (or could you do) to mend the relationship?
  2. After the Jews settle in Israel they begin their society as a “loose confederation of states” and later ask for a king to unite them and rule over them. (I Samuel 8) Reflect on your own beliefs about leadership and describe your ideal society. What kind of governing system does it have? What does it need to achieve peace and cooperation? What are the most important values that hold your society together?
  3. In the Kingdom Divided video, the narrator states that: “Miracles hit people on an emotional level and often, as soon as that emotion dissipates, so does that person’s resolve.” Think of an inspirational moment in your life that moved you to make a change or take on a new challenge. How long did the inspiration last? If you stuck with your change, what helped you keep moving forward? If not, what stood in your way? What would you do if you could try it over again?
  4. Eliyahu the prophet is a very complicated character with fierce loyalty to Hashem (God) on the one hand (see I Kings 18:36), and vengeful wrath against idolaters on the other hand (see I Kings 18:40). The Tanakh (Bible) certainly presents him as a Man of God rather than a Man of the People, and yet he is immortalized as a constant guest at some of our most joyous occasions (the Pesach Seder and every Brit (circumcision)!) Think of someone in your life who you don’t get along with and try to think of one thing that is unique/special/admirable/positive about that person. How does that trait look on the surface? How can you look at that trait from a positive perspective?
  5. The video concludes: “But despite the upheaval, the Jewish people of the great Kingdoms of Judah and Israel never completely lost their bonds to their culture, history, pride and a return to religious fidelity.” Is there a principle, belief, value, or practice that you hold so dearly that you always stick to it, no matter what? Why is it so important to you? How does it shape your actions?

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