The Divided Kingdom
The Kingdom of Israel in the 8th century B.C. is divided. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin control Jerusalem in the south and the remaining ten tribes (Reuban, Simeon, Levi, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Isaachar, Zebulan, and Joseph [Ephraim and Manasseh]) rebelled against the southern kingdom of Judah and elected their own King after the death of Solomon in 931 B.C. While the entire country is called Israel, it actually consists of two kingdoms, the culturally dominant kingdom of Israel in the North and it’s less influential sister kingdom, Judah, in the south.
The Northern Kingdom (Israel)
He married Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, King of Tyre, further securing his power and opening a safe route to the Great Sea. However, his marriage to Jezebel and her tenacious zeal for idolatry and immorality caused Ahab to turn from the God of Isreal to Baal worship, going even so far as to put up a temple to Baal in the new capital of Israel, Samaria. These actions have caused internal strife, particularly with the Elijah and other prophets of Yahweh.
Ahab has made great effort to ease the tension that has existed between the northern and southern tribes, and those efforts have paid off and and the relationship between Israel and Judah has stabilized for the first time in decades.
The most powerful enemy of Israel is Assyria to the north, who are threatened by the growth and power of Israel. King Shalmaneser is watching Ahab closely, but has not made an overt moves against him as of yet. The nearest threats to Israel itself come from neighboring Damascus and Moab, while relations with Ammon and Philistia are tenuous, but not threatening. With Isreal being surrounded by so many other kingdoms Ahab spends much of his time in political negotiations in order to keep the peace on so many fronts.
1 Kings 16:29-34
English Standard Version (ESV)
Ahab Reigns in Israel
29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
Aspects: Constant threat of war, Idolatry everywhere, Strong political influence
The Southern Kingdom (Judah)
King Jehoshaphat, son of Asa, sits on the throne of Judah in the capital city of Jerusalem. During the first several years of his reign he fortified Judah against the northern tribes. With Isreal’s growing power he’s sought to establish an alliance with the northern kingdom. This alliance was sealed with the marriage of his son Jehoram to Athaliah, daughter of Ahab.
Such an alliance has not been well received by some who believe this is the start of the south being overtaken by the idolatry of the north. However, Jehoshaphat has made it a priority to remove all the foreign gods and high places from Judah in an effort to stop such a thing from happening. Because of this Jehoshaphat is highly respected and the people think well of him despite his recent ascendance to the throne.
With an alliance with the north Jehoshaphat has turned his attention on Philistia to the West and Moab to the East. The Salt Sea provides a modicum of protection from Moab, but the threat still exists. Judah is a much easier target for the Moabites to invade and establish a launching platform for a campaign against Isreael. Edom lies along the southern border and is a vassal of Judah, however rumors have surfaced of some tribes from Edom allying with Moab and amassing for a military campaign.
2 Chronicles 17:1-6
English Standard Version (ESV)
Jehoshaphat Reigns in Judah
1 Jehoshaphat his son reigned in his place and strengthened himself against Israel. 2 He placed forces in all the fortified cities of Judah and set garrisons in the land of Judah, and in the cities of Ephraim that Asa his father had captured. 3 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, 4 but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. 5 Therefore the Lord established the kingdom in his hand. And all Judah brought tribute to Jehoshaphat, and he had great riches and honor. 6 His heart was courageous in the ways of the Lord. And furthermore, he took the high places and the Asherim out of Judah.
Aspects: Protected by Yahweh, Big brother to the North, Suzerain of Edom