God told Abram that He would make of him a great nation through which all the earth would be blessed. Having been made into a multitude of people, being given the Law, and entering the Promised Land under Joshua, there was still a long ways to go to be a great nation. During the time of the Judges when “everyone did what was right in their own sight,” Israel was on a moral rollercoaster; following God, turning from God, being turned over to their enemies, seeking God, being delivered from their enemies. This cycle was repeated generation after generation….then came the time of the kings. With King Saul, Israel became a nation “like all the other nations.” But Saul fell from grace and David became king and unified the nation. It became powerful. With King Solomon, the powerful nation lived in peace and obtained great wealth. This nation was great but with Solomon’s death Israel became divided, and yet all nations of the earth had not been blessed by it.
The 10 northern tribes retained the name Israel. The two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin became known as Judah. Around 700 BC, Assyria came and took Israel away. From one man to a great nation, God now has just two tribes. Then Babylon took Judah away for 70 years. After those years Ezra and Nehemiah returned to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem. But only a small portion of Jews (as they were now called) was interested in returning. This was around 400 BC. This was nothing like the great nation promised to Abram. It seems like God is on the downward slope and losing ground quickly. But God continues toward His goal. --Ben