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Kings of the Ten Tribes

Parsha Halacha - Parshat Ki Tavo

Kings of the Ten Tribes

Sponsored by George and Joni White 

Parsha Halacha is underwritten by a grant from Dr. Stephen and Bella Brenner and Dr. Morton Berg in loving memory of Stephen's father, Shmuel Tzvi ben Pinchas, and Bella's parents, Avraham ben Yitzchak and Leah bas HaRav Sholom Zev HaCohen.

Click here for a print version of this article 

In the Torah portion of Ki Tavo, we read about the communal gathering on Mount Gerizim and Mount Abel where the Jewish people accepted the Torah and responded Amen to certain blessings and curses.[1]

Mount Gerizim and Mount Abel were located near the city of Shechem,[2] which was in the portion of the tribe of Yosef.[3] The city of Shechem is also where the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom rebelled against King Rechavam, son of King Solomon, and appointed their own king, Yeravam ben Nevat, thus splitting the nation into two kingdoms: the Kingdom of Yehudah and the Kingdom of Israel (the Northern Kingdom or the Ten Tribes).[4]

This article will present an overview of the various kings and dynasties that ruled over the Northern kingdom with some biographical information about each one of them.

19 Kings

20 kings ruled over the Ten Tribes from the time of Rechavam until their exile by the Assyrians. Here is some information about them:

1)     Yeravam ben Nevat from the tribe of Efrayim was a great Torah scholar who publicly reprimanded King Solomon.[5] After the passing of King Solomon, he was appointed (in a private ceremony) by the prophet Achiyah Hashiloni to be king over the Ten Tribes.[6] When those tribes declared themselves free of Rechavam and accepted him as their king, Yeravam established his capital city in Shechem, ruling there for 22 years. Towards the end of his reign, Yeravam and his army were defeated in battle by Aviyah, son of Rechavam.[7] Despite his Torah scholarship, Yeravam turned towards idol worship and influenced the Ten Tribesto do the same.[8] For this reason, his entire family was wiped out (see below). He is one of four kings who have no portion in the World to Come.[9]

2)     Nadav, son of Yeravam, ruled over the Northern tribes for two years. He followed his father’s evil ways until he was killed by Basha.[10]

3)     Basha, son of Achiya, of the tribe of Yissachar, assassinated Nadav while Nadav and his army were besieging the Philistine city of Gibton. Basha proceeded to wipe out Yeravam’s entire family as had been prophesied by Achiyah Hashiloni. Basha went on to rule for 24 years during which time he was constantly at war with Assa, king of Yehudah. He continued in the wicked and idolatrous path of Yeravam ben Nevat, for which reason the prophet Yehu ben Chanani predicted that his entire household would be wiped out just as he had wiped out Yeravam’s house.[11]

4)     Eilah, son of Basha, ruled after his father for two years. While he was getting drunk in a palace in the city of Tirtzah, he was assassinated by Zimri, an officer in charge of half of his war chariots.[12]

5)     Zimri’s rule lasted only seven days as when the soldiers heard of Eila’s assassination, they appointed another general – Omri – to be the next king. When Omri besieged Zimri in Tirtzah, Zimri killed himself by burning down the palace he was in rather than surrender himself to Omri. He was deserving of this death as, even when he was an officer in Basha’s army, he was influencing the Jewish people to continue in the idolatrous ways of Yeravam ben Nevat. After Zimri’s death, half of the people followed Omri as their next king while the other half followed Tivni, son of Ginat. When Assa, king of Yehuda, married off his son Yehoshafat to the daughter of Omri, the people killed Tivni and accepted Omri as their king .[13]

6)     Omri ruled over the Northern Kingdom for 12 years, six of which in Tirtzah and six of which in the capital city that he built, Shomron. (Shomron remained the capital of the Northern kingdom from this point on.) He was a wicked king who followed in the ways of Yeravam ben Nevat, but in the merit of his building the city of Shomron, he founded a dynasty that lasted three generations.[14]

7)     Achav, son of Omri, ruled over the Northern Kingdom for 22 years. In addition to going in the idolatrous ways of Yeravam ben Nevat, he married Izevel (Jezebel), the daughter of the Phoenecian king Itba’al and proceeded to introduce the Baal and Asheira worship to his subjects. Together with Izevel, he killed out all of the prophets of G-d that he could get his hands on, and allowed Izevel to arrange the corrupt sentencing and killing of his neighbor and cosuin, Navot, whose beautiful vineyard he then expropriated. It is for this last sin that the prophet Eliyahu predicted the utter destruction of Achav’s family. When he heard this prophecy, he did teshuvah (to some extent) for which reason the destruction of his family was delayed to the next generation. He fought many successful battles against Aram but eventually fell in battle in the vineyard which he had stolen. The Mishnah says that he is one of the kings who have no portion in the World-to-Come. Despite this, the Talmud says that he loved the Torah and supported Torah scholars. If not for the sin of killing Navot, he would have been judged to have half good deeds and half bad. These positive behaviors might explain why Yehoshafat married off his son Yehoram to the daughter of Achav.[15]

8)     Achazya, son of Achav, reigned for two years after his father’s death during which time he followed in the wicked ways of his parents. He was injured when he fell from the second floor of his palace in Shomron and died from those injuries as the Prophet Elijah had predicted.[16]

9)     Yehoram, son of Achav, succeeded his brother Achazya since Achazyah had no sons. He reigned for 12 years during which time he battled the Moabites and the Arameans while continuing to serve idols, but not as badly as had his parents. He and his entire family was wiped out by Yeihu ben Nimshi who had been told to do so by Yonah HaNavi.[17] 

10) Yeihu ben Nimshi, after killing out the family of Achav, led the Jewish people for 28 years. He proceeded to kill all the prophets of the Ba’al, but he eventually turned to worship the golden calves made by King Yeravam.[18]

11) Yehoachaz, son of Yeihu, ruled for 17 years. He went in the sinful ways of Yeravam ben Nevat. His kingdom was a vassal state to the Arameans who greatly diminished his power.[19]

12) Yehoash, son of Yehoachaz, ruled for 16 years after his father’s passing. He continued in the wicked ways of Yeravam ben Nevat while also fighting with the tribe of Yehudah and their king, Amatzyah, and with Aram and their king, Ben Hadad.[20]

13) Yeravam (the Second) succeeded his father Yehoash on the throne. During his 41-year rule, the longest of any monarch in the Northern Kingdom, he reconquered cities that had been taken from his father. He, too, went  in the evil ways of his predecessors.[21]

14) Zechariah, son of Yeravam (the Second), succeeded his father to the throne which he only occupied for six months. He followed a wicked path and was publicly assassinated by Shalum ben Yavesh, who then became the next king.[22]

15) Shalum ben Yavesh reigned for only one month, at which point he was assassinated by Menachem ben Gadi.[23]

16) Menachem ben Gadi ruled for 10 years in Shomron during which time he followed the wicked ways of the previous kings. He paid tribute to Pul, King of Assyria, to allow him to retain his kingdom.[24]

17) Pekachyah took over from his father Menachem upon his passing, ruling for two years. He continued in the sinful ways of Yeravam ben Nevat and the subsequent kings. He was assassinated by one of his officers, Pekach ben Remelyahu, while he was in his royal palace in Shomron.[25]

18) Pekach ben Remalyahu succeeded Pekachyah ben Menachem. He continued in the wicked ways of his predecessors and reigned for twenty years during which time much of his territory was conquered by Tiglat Pilesser, king of Assyria, who exiled the inhabitants of the Ten Tribes to faraway lands. Pekach was then assassinated by Hoshe’ah ben Ailah.[26]

19) Hoshe’a ben Eilah was the last king of the Northern Kingdom. He reigned for nine years and was considered to be less wicked than his predecessors because he allowed his subjects to go to Jerusalem if they wished to worship there. (Until then the borders had been guarded against anyone trying to pass over to the Kingdom of Judah to worship in the Beit HaMikdash.) At first, he paid tribute to Shalmanessar, king of Assyria, and was his vassal. When he rebelled, however, and aligned himself with Egypt, Shalmanessar besieged Shomron, conquering it and transporting the remaining inhabitants to faraway lands, thus ending the Northern kingdom. The exact whereabouts of those exiled tribes (if they still exist) is still a mystery.[27]

List in Order of the Number of Years Reigned

Here is a list of the above kings based on the number of years they reigned, in descending order. 

1)     Yeravam (the Second), son of Yehoash, ruled for 41 years

2)     Yehu ben Nimshi ruled for 28 years.

3)     Basha, son of Achiya, ruled for 24 years.

4)     Yeravam ben Nevat ruled for 22 years.

5)     Achav ruled for 22 years.

6)     Pekach ben Remalyahu ruled for 20 years.

7)     Yehoachaz, son of Yeihu, ruled for 17 years.

8)     Yehoash, son of Yehoachaz, ruled for 16 years.

9)     Omri ruled for 12 years.

10) Yehoram, son of Achav, ruled for 12 years.

11) Menachem ben Gadi ruled for 10 years.

12) Hoshea ben Eilah ruled for nine years.

13) Nadav, son of Yeravam, ruled for two years.

14) Eilah, son of Basha, ruled for two years

15) Achazya, son of Achav, ruled for two years.

16) Pekachyah, son of Menachem, ruled for two years.

17) Zechariah, son of Yeravam, ruled for six months.

18) Shalum ben Yavesh ruled for one month.

19) Zimri ruled for seven days.

It is noteworthy that the average number of years that these kings ruled was only 13 while the average number of years that the Davidic kings of Yehudah reigned in the South was 22 years. This disparity is due to the many assassinations and other forms of tragic deaths that were visited upon these (mostly) wicked kings. In fact, a majority of these kings died in violent ways as described above and below compared to about only one third of 22 kings of Judea who died in violent ways.

Who Died a Violent Death?

Here is a list of the kings of the Northern Kingdom who died a violent death.

●      Death by Assassination:

Seven kings were assassinated by men who then succeeded (or tried to succeed them) them on the throne. These were: Nadav, son of Yeravam; Eilah, son of Basha; Yehoram, son of Achav; Zechariyah, son of Yeravam (the Second); Shalum ben Yavesh; Pekachyahu, son of Menacham; and Pekach ben Remalyahu.

●      Death by Suicide

Zimri killed himself in a fire.

●      Death in Battle

Achav, son of Omri, was killed by Aramean archers.

●      Death by Accidental Fall

Achazya, son of Achav, died of wounds sustained when he fell from the second story of this palace.

May G-d Restore all of the Tribes to their Rightful Place with the Coming of Moshiach Immediately!

[1] Deut. 28:11-26

[2] Ibid. 11:30 with Rashi

[3] Gen. 48:22 and Rashi

[4] I Kings chapter 12

[5] I Kings 11:26 with Rashi. See Sanhedrin 101b and 102b

[6] Ibid verse 29 and on

[7] II Chronicles, 13

[8] I Kings 12:2813:1 and 14:9

[9] Ibid. 14:5 and on, Mishnah Sanhedrin 10:2 and Sanhedrin 101b and on. It has been pointed out that from this point on, only two of the kings died a natural death, Omri and Yehu.

[10] I Kings 15:25

[11] Ibid, 15:27 – 16:4

[12] Ibid., verse 6 - 19

[13] Ibid., verse 15 – 22 and commentaries based on Seder Olam

[14] Ibid., verse 23 – 28 and Sanhedrin 102b as explained by Maharsha

[15] Ibid., verse 29 – 34, 18:4, chapters 2021 and 22Radak on verse 38, and on 21:15Sanhedrin 102bII Chronicles 21:6Pirkei DeRabi Eliezer 43

[16] I Kings 22:40 – 54, II Kings 1:2 - 17

[17] Ibid., chapter 109:1 with Rashi 

[18] Ibid., chapter 10

[19] Ibid., chapter 11 1- 8 

[20] II Kings 13:10 - 13

[21] II Kings 14:23 - 28

[22] Ibid., verse 29, - 15:12

[23] Ibid., 13 - 15

[24] Ibid., 15:17 - 22

[25] Ibid., 23- 26

[26] Ibid., 27 - 31

[27] Ibid., 17:1 – 23, I Chronicles 5:269:3Yevamot 16bTa’anit 31a and b and Sanhedrin 110b

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom UMevorach!

Sun, June 23 2024 17 Sivan 5784