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While the Jews eventually did find a King - King Saul, their king was not a supreme ruler with complete control over the people and the land. Again, the Jews indicated their diversity and divergence from the surrounding cultures. Their king was supposed to be a model Jew, one the people could emulate and admire. This period of the Israelite kingdoms was a time of growth and change that would end in a tumultuous exile of the Jews to Babylonia, one of the first of many Jewish exiles and persecutions. Many scholars believe King Saul helped aid the fall of the Jews by not taking on the nation of Amalek and eradicating it. The nation hated Jews and their religion, and caused many of the early Jewish troubles in the area. Saul did not take them on, and many feel this was his fatal flaw (Spiro). After a brief rule by Saul, King David, first a shepherd and then the killer of Goliath becomes king. David becomes a champion of the Jewish forces, who are still battling the Philistines, (which is another pattern in history, the Jews seem to have always been fighting someone). David is a great leader and later passes leadership to his son, King Solomon, which seems to go against the earlier experience of choosing the best and wisest person for the job.
During this time, Jerusalem grows, and King Solomon builds a commanding Temple there that represented the faith and glory of the Jewish religion. Many scholars believe this was the pinnacle of Jewish ancient history, and a time when the country was the most united and admired. Many neighboring cultures came to the Temple to learn from the Jews, and there is peace and prosperity throughout the land, which is far different from the preceding times. The Jews are content, and life is good. Being a Jew means being successful and Israel does indeed seem like the Promised Land. Yet, this time seems far removed from the diversity and self-accountability of previous times. Worse still, King Solomon, like others before him, has a fatal flaw. He has too many wives, and people believe this led him to idolatry and poor decisions, and that his many wives were also idolaters and bad influences on the king. Ultimately, his bad behavior leads to the downfall of his society, and in this, the pattern of behavior and paying for that behavior continues.
Throughout these two periods, the Jews have been successful, threatened, successful, threatened, and successful. To be a Jew is to know that at the peak of civilization, there is always an upcoming valley, and that is the case of the Israelite kingdoms. This was an extremely successful time in history, when the culture and the country was growing and enjoying prosperity and peace. The Talmud and the Torah were respected works, and the Jewish people now understood their strengths, their weaknesses, and who they could trust as neighbors. Solomon's weakness for women weakened the entire community, and led to the downfall of the Jewish people. After Solomon's death, the people were conquered by the Assyrians, their beautiful Temple was destroyed, and they were banished to Babylonia, which would begin a long history of exile and persecution. It seems that another enduring pattern in the Jewish faith is the ability to come back from these difficulties and create a new and influential culture and Jewish state. Their faith, although it has altered through time, seems to have carried them through these difficulties, especially when the rely on the teachings of the Torah. These two periods in history show the growth and emergence of Jewish culture, and how great that culture can be. They are the foundations of the modern Jewish religion, and as with most religions, there are some cracks and seams in the foundation, but it still withstands the test of time.
Edelheit, Hershel, and Abfaham J. Edelheit. History of Zionism: A Handbook and Dictionary. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000.
Spiro, Rabbi Ken. "The Time of the Judges." AISH.com. 2007. 26 March 2007. http://www.aish.com/literacy/jewishhistory/Crash_Course_in_Jewish_History_Part_15_-_The_Time_of_the_Judges.asp[continue]
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