Exodus 18 marks a point from which Israel begins its rise as a nation. “Now Jethro, the priest of Midian and father-in-law of Moses, heard of everything God had done for Moses and for his people Israel, and how the Lord had brought Israel out of Egypt.” God’s bond with Israel would soon continue to grow with giving of the Ten Commandments and God’s laws for Israel.
2 Chronicles 26 marks an apex for the Kingdom of Judah, that in the Bible is one of the kingdoms that emerges from Israel, with the reign of King Uzziah. “He was the one who rebuilt Elath and restored it to Judah…He went to war against the Philistines and broke down the walls of Gath, Jabneh and Ashdod. He then rebuilt towns near Ashdod and elsewhere among the Philistines. God helped him against the Philistines and against the Arabs who lived in Gur Baal and against the Meunites. The Ammonites brought tribute to Uzziah, and his fame spread as far as the border of Egypt, because he had become very powerful. Uzziah built towers in Jerusalem at the Corner Gate, at the Valley Gate and at the angle of the wall, and he fortified them. He also built towers in the wilderness and dug many cisterns, because he had much livestock in the foothills and in the plain. He had people working his fields and vineyards in the hills and in the fertile lands, for he loved the soil.”
Scholars estimate King Uzziah’s reign to have taken place from the early to mid-8th century BCE. And the archaeology comports with the Bible’s description of this period of King Uzziah’s rule as an expansionary period.
The Shephelah is the region between the hill country of Judea, which includes Jerusalem, and the southern coastal plain, which in ancient times was the heartland of the Philistines.
During the Iron I period, roughly 1200 BCE through 1000 BCE according to the ‘High Chronology,’ the Shephelah was undeveloped, with only a small Canaanite presence in its eastern range. In the early Iron II period, new sites developed at places such as Lachish and Tel Zayit that appear to have been connected to a more centralized force in the highlands area.
A key turning point came in the late 8th century BCE with the defeat of the powerful Philistine city of Gath by the Arameans. With the loss of a powerful coastline rival, the polity in the central highlands, presumably Judah, was able to expand further west without interference. Theis expansion can be seen at sites such as Lachish, Tel Beth Shemesh, Tel Batash, Tel Zayit, Tell Beit Mirsim and Tel ‘Eton. A population estimate for the period ranges from 50,000 to 100,000.