David's son Solomon (965 - 928 BCE) devoted much of his generally peaceful reign to consolidating the kingdom and reconciling the various factions and tribal interests. He divided the kingdom into administrative units, and firmly established Jerusalem as the centre of the country. Solomon erected there a magnificent temple to the glory of God, and in its holiest sanctuary were deposited the ancient Tablets of the Law. The religious duty of pilgrimage to the Temple further helped to unify the kingdom. His merchant fleet sailed to Ophit, Tyre and possibly Africa.
The Bible attributes the peace and prosperity of Israel in this period to the wisdom of Solomon. A dream is recorded in which God asked Solomon what can I give thee? To which Solomon responded:
An understanding heart to judge Thy people that I may be able to discern between good and evil.
This was realised and several stories are told indicating Solomon's amazing wisdom. In order to cement relations with neighbouring relations Solomon took foreign wives who brought their pagan religions with them.
After his death, the dissensions inherent in what was only so recently a tribal confederation came to the fore. His son, Rehoboam, did not command the respect and affection that his father and grandfather had done and the northern part of the kingdom seceded under the rule of Jeroboam. Thus two hostile sister-kingdoms existed; the southern, known as Judah, remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty while the northern, known as Israel, was unstable thoroughout its history, suffering frequent dynastic changes. Israel established new cultic centres, independent of the Temple in Jerusalem, and reintroduced the worship of the Golden Calf.
The Prophets, who were very active in this period, campaigned against these foreign religions, particularly the worship of Baal. Isaiah is best remembered for his vision of the ultimate brotherhood of mankind, together serving God in the temple of peace in Jerusalem. Jeremiah's prophecies, fearlessly warning kings of the bitter consequences of corrupt rule and social injustice, were fulfilled in his life time. Their prophecies often contained sound political advice.
Both kingdoms were periodically at war with their neighbours and suffered from being situated between the two great powers of the day, Assyria to the northeast and Egypt to the south. In approximately 720 bce the Kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians, and its inhabitants exiled. Those exiles came to be known as the Ten Lost Tribes and many legends developed about them. In 586 bce Judah was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the growing Babylonian Empire. The Temple at Jerusalem was destroyed and its inhabitants were deported to Babylonia.