In 1020 BCE a Jewish monarchy was established under King Saul. Saul consolidated Jewish control over the land in a number of successful battles.  After the death of Saul, David became king in 1004 BCE. It was David who moved Israel's capital from Hevron to  Jerusalem.

David established Israel as a major power in the region by successful military expeditions, including the final defeat of the Philistines, as well as the development of a network of friendly alliances with nearby kingdoms.

David reined for 39 years and was succeeded by his son Solomon who became king in 965 BCE. Solomon further strengthened the kingdom which ranged from the Mediteranean Sea on the west, to the eastern shores of the Jordan river on the east, to what is now southern Lebanon in the north to the Negev in the south.

Solomon's crowning achievement was the building of the first Temple in Jerusalem in 960 BCE.  The Temple became the center of Jewish national and religious life.

After the death of  Solomon, disputes between his heirs resulted in the splitting of the kingdom in 930 BCE. The kingdom of Israel was in the north, and the kingdom of Judah in the south. The divided weakened kingdom of Israel was conquered by the Assyrians in 720 BCE. Those from the northern kingdom of Israel were absorbed in the Assyrian Empire and became known as the ten lost tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah lasted another 120 years until 598 BCE when it was ultimately conquered by the Babylonians. Jerusalem was seiged and the first Temple destroyed. Jehoiachin king of Judah, was captured by King Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon, along with thousands of Jerusalem's principal citizens. Over the next 15 years the rest of the  Jewish population were exiled to Babylonia. During the Babylonian exile a number of important changes occurred. The Hebrew alphabet evolved into the format still in use today and the Torah emerged as the central guide to Jewish observance.