Conquest and Kingship
From their entry into the land of Canaan under Joshua (c. 1250 bce) the Children of Israel were a loose federation of tribes led successively by leaders whom the Bible called Judges. A constant threat was presented by the Philistines, a powerful nation on the western seaboard.
The Tribes often fought amongst themselves. One incident is recorded when the Tribe of Benjamin was attacked and nearly destroyed by the others for refusing to agree to the punishment of the recalcitrant town of Gibeah.
Besides the Philistines, the opposition of the Canaanite tribes had to be broken. This was a long process which culminated in a decisive victory led by the Israelite forces led by Deborah, a woman judge. The Book of Judges sees the Jews in this period as alternating between the worship of the true God and paganism; when they served idols they were punished by subservience to the surrounding tribes.
The monotheistic cult was not centralised, though the main center was at Beth - el, where the prophet Samuel was dedicated to serve when he was a child, Under pressure from the people Samuel agreed to anoint a king - Saul (c. 1020 - 04 bce) of the tribe of Benjamin, and thus the ground was prepared for the unification of the nation. However, Saul was ultimately deposed by Samuel for not exactly following divine instructions with regard to the complete destruction of the Amalekites, an ancient foe of Israel. Saul did not recognise this act and Samuel appointed David (1004 - 965 bce) as king during Saul's lifetime. Saul's son Jonathan, who might have been considered the legitimate heir to the throne, recognised David's right. Much to the anger of his father, he maintained good relations with David and was reconciled to the fact that the latter would rule Israel. David, until his accession had a chequered career as the leader of a private army pursued by Saul. Although he had the opportunity, he did not kill Saul whom he viewed with respect and, it seems, with affection.
After Saul's death in battle with the Philistines, David assumed the throne and suceeded in uniting the tribes into one nation. The Bible remembers him as an able administrator, a brave soldier, and a man of great religious capacity. Traditionally, the authorship of the Book of Psalms is attributed to him. David acquired the city of Jerusalem and made it his capital. It also became the site of the Temple which his son Solomon was to build, something he himself was not allowed to do as it was unseemly that a man of war should erect a Temple whose purpose it to bring peace.
Next Step : Dissension and Destruction
Index to Footsteps through Jewish History