Book of Samuel


I just finished reading the books of Samuel and I have a question. Many references to the people of Israel and then references to the people of Judah. Please forgive my ignorance but could someone explain the difference. Meaning who exactly were the people of Judah if they were not Jews or if they were. I just want to see how they all fit in together. Thanks for the help.


The people of Israel are all the Hebrew tribes. The people of Judah are the people of the Hebrew tribe of Judah; where we get the term "Jew."


brierpatch1974 asks an awsome question. You can't understand the prophets unless you understand the difference between Judah and Israel.

There were originally twelve tribes, descended from the twelve sons of Jacob/Israel.

David became king, and then his son Solomon. Solomon was very wealthy but his wealth didn't come without a price. He was a harsh taskmaster. When Solomon died and his son Rehoboam took the throne, the people asked to have the burden lifted.

**"Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you." *(1 Kings 12:4)*

The people had been forced to labor, forced to serve in the army, taxed heavily and forced to give a portion of their flocks and harvest to King Solomon to sustain the splendor of the royal court, building of cities and roads, and all Solomon undertook. The people were pretty fed up. Rehoboah however, refused to lighten the workload and promised to be an even harsher taskmaster.

**"My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."* (1 Kings12:14)*

The poeple rebelled when they heard this.

**And when all Israel saw that the king did not hearken to them, the people answered the king,
"What portion have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Look now to your own house, David."
So Israel departed to their tents. But Rehobo'am reigned over the people of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehobo'am sent Ador'am, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehobo'am made haste to mount his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. *

(1 Kings 12:16-19)*

"To your tents" or "each went to his own tent" are phrases we should be familiar with when we read the Bible. Such phrases indicate rebellion or some type of rejection of power or schism.

Only the two souther tribes of Judah and Benjamin stayed loyal to the Davidic line. In about 932 BC the ten northern tribes all went to their tents, all split off and formed their own nation. This was the beginning of the period known as the divided kingdom, with the ten tribes of Israel to the north and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin to the south.

It is vitally important to understand this because most of the prophets operated either in the north (Israel) or the south (Judah), and their message changes depending on whether they operated in the north (Galillee, Samaria, etc), or in the Judea/Jerusalem. As an example, two false temples complete with golden calves (sound familiar?) for the ten northern tribes had been set up in the cities of Bethel and Dan. This is where Elijah and Elisha operated and where the bear killed the children as Elijiah was going up to Bethel. Elijiah and Elisha preached to the ten rebellious northern tribes. It is important to note that the two southern tribes often weren't much better behaved than the ten northern tribes.

After a few hundred years, (762BC?) the ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled into Babylon, followed by the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but the ten northern tribes never really returned to the land. Judah and Benjamin returned but Israel adopted the diet, customs, language and worship of their captors and either stayed with their captors or dispersed throughout the world (dispora). Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain. To this day the ten northern tribes are virtually gone. Judah and Benjamin alone remained as "The Jews".

Paul was from the tribe of Benjamin. Paul's first missionary journey was to the Israelites of the ten tribes in dispora in Crete and Asia Minor, but he was rejected and so he turned to the Gentiles.

These details can be missed even when one reads the books of 1 and 2 Kings straight through. It helps to have some knowledge of history, or to have someone explain it as was done for me. I hope my explanation helps in some way.



Good answer, Tim. There are a couple of things that it is necessary to add, though:

It is important to note that the two southern tribes often weren’t much better behaved than the ten northern tribes.

This is true; however, according to Scripture, the Southern Kingdom was sometimes sinful, while the Northern Kingdom always was in disobedience to the Lord (due to their temples, their worship of foreign gods, etc.)

After a few hundred years, (762BC?) the ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled into Babylon, followed by the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin, but the ten northern tribes never really returned to the land.

Actually, there were two distinct exile events. First, the Assyrians came and invaded the Northern Kingdom. They took the Israelites out and dispersed them among their empire. These are the “lost tribes of Israel”; they never returned. Later, the Babylonians came and invaded the Southern Kingdom. They took the people of Judah to exile in Babylon. Years later, after a change of leadership (when the Persians were in power), the Jews were allowed to return. Many (although not all) returned to Judah.

One more note: sometimes, when the Scriptures use the term “Israel”, they mean “the Northern Kingdom.” Other times, they mean the whole of the people (i.e., both Northern and Southern Kingdoms). One has to be attentive in order to understand which the writer means.


Thank you all for the replies and clearing that up for me.


If you can, brierpatch, try to read along with a study Bible (sorry if this is basic for you; I have no idea what your level is). They offer an immense insight into things you otherwise just wouldn’t know, which can clear up a lot of confusion, and sometimes when the text is confusing they clarify that. They often also add in notes about different texts through time.

And not least of which, of course, is that the Bible itself teaches that it ought not to be interpreted by an individual all alone-- the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit who wants to see His Church endure without sin, is the appropriate resource to gain learning about specific parts of the Bible.


A study bible is a great idea. I need to get one soon. I was just thinking that today about how I would like to have a study like guide to go along with my readings. Thank you


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