Session 11                                   THE DEATH OF JUDAS


The Israelites thought that they looked “a little weird” by having God as their ruler.  They wanted and demanded a king like the other nations.  Most scholars place this event around the year 1020 B.C.  

Samuel, their Prophet, warned them this was a BAD idea.  You can read the details in 1 Samuel 8:10-18.  God gave them three reasons why they should not have a king:  1) he will draft your sons into the military 2) he will take your land 3) he will tax you.  You will essentially be his slaves!  But they persisted, and the Kingdom of Israel was formed.

Initially there was only one king:  first Saul, followed by David, then Solomon.  After Solomon died (about 930 B.C.), Rehoboam (whom the Jewish historians labelled the dumbest bunny in the rabbit hutch!) became King of all Israel and promised to rule with an iron fist (read about this in I Kings 12).  That caused the 10 northern tribes to say “We’re out of here!” and they crowned Jeroboam as their king and called their Kingdom “Israel.”  Rehoboam had caused this breakup of the united Kingdom; the Jews were separated into two separate Kingdoms.1



The northern kingdom called itself “Israel” and the southern kingdom called itself “Judah.”  The great prophet of Israel (the yellow portion of the map) was Isaiah, preaching until 721 B.C. when Assyria wiped the northern kingdom off the map permanently!   The great prophet of Judah was Jeremiah (the pink portion of the map) who’s warnings went unheeded until 587 B.C. when the Babylonians hauled most of the remaining Jews to Babylon (this is appropriately called “The Babylonian Captivity”).

This information confuses all of us, because we think of the entire country as “Israel!”    But the northern kingdom of “Israel” only lasted from roughly 930-721 B.C. and the 10 tribes of the north never came back—they are gone!  The country we today call “Israel” only came into existence in 1948, after World War II.


I provide this minor history lesson as a perspective of Jeremiah’s warnings in the Valley of Ben Hinnom.  The Jewish people who lived in Judah were able to look over the fence at their neighbors’ plight:  God had destroyed the 10 tribes to the north, as Isaiah had warned them that He would.  

That ought to make Jeremiah’s audience pay attention!  Notice who Jeremiah’s audience is:  the Jewish leaders!  But the leaders of the people did not heed the warning to abandon other gods.  The potter threw away the lump of clay, but “God would never do that to us!”  What would make them think this way?  In their minds, Mount Zion in Jerusalem was where God lived.  He would never allow his holy city to be captured!   

When the Babylonian army invaded, they learned differently.  They were devastated by being forced to live as captives in a faraway land.  Psalm 137 begins: “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.  (ESV)

On the 12th of October, 539 B.C., Cyrus the Great of Persia (modern-day Iran) conquered Babylon (modern-day Iraq).  The following year, 538 B.C., Cyrus told the Jews they could go home.  (Isn’t it interesting that Iran and Iraq—2500 years later—are still at each other’s throats?  And we thought the Hatfields and McCoys were a “feud”!)

Their old homeland, Judah, came to be known as “Judea” to the Greeks and Romans, and their religion had become “Judaism.”  They had had nearly 50 years to think things over in Babylon, and they came to the erroneous conclusion that their great  mistake toward God was their failure to keep the 10 Commandments!  Their religion became a life style of “work righteousness” as a way to please God.

There is much more to learn from Jeremiah.  Jeremiah 7:31-32 says “And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind.  Therefore, behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, but the Valley of Slaughter; for they will bury in Topheth, because there is no room elsewhere.”


1  Never say I don’t provide trivia:  “Jeroboam” and “Rehoboam” are two sizes of champagne bottles.  A “Jeroboam” is 3 liters of champagne and a “Rehoboam” is 4.5 liters of champagne (6 times the size of a normal bottle).  But the Rehoboam is NOT the largest size; there are at least 8 sizes which are larger, all named after Biblical figures.  The biggest is called a “Melchezedek”  and is an unbelievable thirty liters (240 glasses of champagne)! According to the website it weighs 170 pounds!