Divided_Kingdom2


tthe following was picked up from an open biblical source which will be disclosed on the concluding part of this article.  It is quite a lengthy piece and if you prefer you can read it in one sitting or maybe in two.  It echos the article sent to Edwin Mora by a pastor-minister from one of the locales in Metro Manila touching on the biblical basis that instances had previously occurred where men of God had rebelled against their God-appointed King because of cruelty and lack of compassion. And God had not taken this action against them but instead allowed the rebel groups to form their own Kingdom with their own King recognized by God Himself.

We are not implying anything much more preaching the words of God. We are just assessing what is written, what is told. Nothing more, nothing less.

Please read on.

“A young man spends hours working on his car, laboring meticulously to make it a showpiece. He not only restores the car to its original condition, but he overhauls the engine, modifying it to obtain maximum performance. He invites a couple of friends to cruise around the streets of Dallas with him, showing off his handiwork. They stop at a local hangout for hamburgers and meet another young man, who also has a high performance automobile. Each begins to boast that his car is faster than that of his rival. Eventually, they race down a major street at high speed. One young man presses his car beyond its limits, and it careens out of control, striking other automobiles, and eventually killing a young mother and her child, standing in their front yard talking with friends.

IMG_0731The young man responsible for the death of these two innocent people did not set out that night to kill someone with his car. He did, however, want to show off. He wanted others to see how well he had transformed a tired old car into a beautiful muscle machine. He wanted to impress others with how fast his car was, and how skilled he was as a driver.

How many times in history has something like this happened? The unintentional consequences of a foolish action may be far greater than one would have ever imagined. This past April a cocky and over-zealous pilot maneuvered his fighter too close to the propellers of a U.S. intelligence plane. The events that followed triggered a growing rift in the relationship of the United States and China.

This is precisely what happens in 1 Kings 12 and its parallel text in 2 Chronicles 10. When Rehoboam [King Solomon’s son] and the Israelites met that fateful day in Shechem, everyone assumed that Rehoboam would become Israel’s king. The people made a simple and reasonable request of Rehoboam, and after consulting with others, this would-be king arrogantly rejected it. The people renounced him as their king and went their way. Reconciliation might have occurred had Rehoboam not acted foolishly. The result was a divided kingdom. This unintended consequence would shape the history of the nation to this very day.

This is one of the great “turning points” in the history of Israel, one that is crucial to our understanding the Bible. From this point on, the southern kingdom will be known as Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital and one of David’s descendants as their king. The northern kingdom, composed of ten tribes, will be known as Israel. Samaria will eventually become its capital and its dynasties will frequently change. At times, the two kingdoms will be at war with each other, and at other times they will make certain alliances. The glorious days of the united kingdom under Saul, David, and Solomon are gone. The northern kingdom will consistently have evil kings and behave wickedly. They will be the first to be scattered in judgment. The southern kingdom will have its good kings and its wicked ones, and eventually Judah will be taken into captivity by the Babylonians.

There are many lessons to be learned from Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and Jeroboam, Israel’s first king. Let us listen well to the words of the Scriptures and seek to learn the lessons from Israel’s history which God has for us:

For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope (Romans 15:4).247

Brief Review of Israel’s Kings


a1b9c-slide4The united kingdom lasted the length of the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. Saul, Israel’s first king, was a Benjamite who failed to obey God. He did not wait for Samuel at Gilgal but went ahead to offer sacrifices, fearing his soldiers would desert him (1 Samuel 13). Later, Saul failed to totally annihilate the Amalekites. He let King Agag live and kept some of the best of the Amalekites’ cattle (1 Samuel 15). After the death of Saul and his sons at the hand of the Philistines, David was anointed king, first over Judah and then later over all Israel. David was a man with a heart for God. His great failure came when he sinned with regard to Bathsheba and Uriah, her husband. While he repented and was forgiven, he, his family, and his kingdom suffered some very painful consequences. His daughter was raped by her brother Amnon; another of David’s sons – Absalom – had Amnon killed, and then fled. Eventually Absalom returned to Israel and later succeeded in overthrowing his father David. After David’s forces killed Absalom and defeated his army, David returned to claim his throne in Jerusalem.

An incident occurred in conjunction with David’s return to Jerusalem that reveals the already fragile state of the united kingdom’s unity:

41 Then all the men of Israel began coming to the king. They asked the king, “Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, sneak the king away and help the king and his household cross the Jordan—and not only him but all of David’s men as well?” 42 All the men of Judah replied to the men of Israel, “Because the king is our close relative. Why are you so upset about this? Have we eaten at the king’s expense? Or have we misappropriated anything for our own use?” 43 The men of Israel replied to the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and we have a greater claim on David than you do. Why do you want to curse us? Weren’t we the first to suggest bringing back our king?” But the comments of the men of Judah were more severe than those of the men of Israel (2 Samuel 19:41-43).

David’s son, Solomon, was the last of the kings of the united kingdom. His sin was the reason for the division of the united kingdom. In our next section, we will look more carefully at the role Solomon played in the division of the kingdom, along with Rehoboam and Jeroboam.

Solomon, Jeroboam, and Rehoboam

There are three major participants in the events which led to the division of the united kingdom: Solomon, Jeroboam, and Rehoboam. We will briefly look at the part each of these men played in the division of the kingdom.

Solomon

journey-through-the-bible-part-11-the-glory-and-tragedy-of-solomon-21-638It was not until after David’s son Adonijah sought to seize the throne for himself that David publicly designated Solomon as his successor. God appeared to Solomon two times before his fall.248 The first appearance is found in 1 Kings 3 where God promised Solomon that He would grant his request. Solomon asked for wisdom. God granted him not only wisdom, but also fame, great power, and incredible wealth. He also made it clear that Solomon was to keep His instructions:

11 God said to him, “Because you asked for the ability to make wise judicial decisions, and not for long life, or riches, or vengeance on your enemies, 12 I grant your request, and give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you. 13 Furthermore, I am giving you what you did not request— riches and honor so that you will be the greatest king of your generation. 14 If you follow my instructions by obeying my rules and regulations, just as your father David did, then I will grant you long life.” 15 Solomon then woke up and realized it was a dream. He went to Jerusalem, stood before the ark of the Lord’s covenant, offered up burnt sacrifices, presented tokens of peace, and held a feast for all his servants (1 Kings 3:11-15).

The second appearance of God to Solomon came after the dedication of the temple. God promised that His presence would be with the nation Israel in the temple, but with these warnings:

1 After Solomon finished building the Lord’s temple, the royal palace, and all the other construction projects he had planned, 2 the Lord appeared to Solomon a second time, in the same way he had appeared to him at Gibeon. 3 The Lord said to him, “I have answered your prayer and your request for help that you made to me. I have consecrated this temple you built by making it my permanent home; I will be constantly present there. 4 You must serve me with integrity and sincerity, just as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. 5 Then I will allow your dynasty to rule over Israel permanently, just as I promised your father David, ‘You will not fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’ 6 “But if you or your sons ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, 7 then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and Israel will be mocked and ridiculed among all the nations. 8 This temple will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by it will be shocked and will hiss out their scorn, saying, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ 9 Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God, who led their ancestors out of Egypt. They embraced other gods whom they worshiped and served. That is why the Lord has brought all this disaster down on them’” (1 Kings 9:1-9).

In addition to these words of instruction and warning, addressed specifically to Solomon, there were the general instructions and warnings of the Law regarding Israel’s kings:

14 When you come to the land the Lord your God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, “I will appoint a king over me like all the nations surrounding me,” 15 you must without fail select over you a king whom the Lord your God will choose. From among your fellow citizens you must appoint a king—you may not designate a foreigner who is not one of your fellow Israelites. 16 Moreover, he must not accumulate horses for himself or allow the people to return to Egypt to do so, for the Lord has said you must never again return that way. 17 Furthermore, he must not marry many wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold. 18 When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this instruction on a scroll given to him by the levitical priests. 19 It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this instruction and these statutes in order to carry them out, 20 so that he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens and turn from the commandment right or left, and so that he and his descendants may enjoy many years ruling over his kingdom in Israel (Deuteronomy 17:14-20).

The high points of Solomon’s reign were no doubt the construction and dedication of the temple. His downfall came late in his life. Solomon married many foreign wives, and eventually his heart was turned to worship their pagan gods:

6222b7b476cff54b4ff9a793bcc36b831 King Solomon fell in love with many foreign women (besides Pharaoh’s daughter), including Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. 2 They came from nations about which the Lord had warned the Israelites, “You must not establish friendly relations with them! If you do, they will surely shift your allegiance to their gods.” But Solomon was irresistibly attracted to them. 3 He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; his wives had a powerful influence over him. 4 When Solomon became old, his wives shifted his allegiance to other gods; he was not wholeheartedly devoted to the Lord his God, as his father David had been. 5 Solomon worshiped the Sidonian goddess Astarte and the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 6 Solomon did evil before the Lord; he did not remain loyal to the Lord, like his father David had. 7 Furthermore, on the hill east of Jerusalem Solomon built a high place for the detestable Moabite god Chemosh and for the detestable Ammonite god Milcom. 8 He built high places for all his foreign wives so they could burn incense and make sacrifices to their gods (1 Kings 11:1-8).

As a result of Solomon’s folly, God announced that he would lose his kingdom. Because of his father David, God would delay this judgment until after Solomon’s death:

9 The Lord was angry with Solomon because he had shifted his allegiance away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him on two occasions 10 and had warned him about this very thing so that he would not follow other gods. But he did not obey the Lord’s command. 11 So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you insist on doing these things and have not kept the covenantal rules I gave you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. 12 However, for your father David’s sake I will not do this while you are alive. I will tear it away from your son’s hand instead. 13 But I will not tear away the entire kingdom; I will leave your son one tribe for my servant David’s sake and for the sake of my chosen city Jerusalem” (1 Kings 11:9-13).

The saddest thing about Solomon’s failure is that in spite of God’s rebuke, he gives no evidence of repentance. God raised up men who opposed Solomon in his lifetime. The first of these opponents was Hadad the Edomite (1 Kings 11:14-22), a most interesting fellow. One wonders why so much detail is given about him, especially regarding his connection with Egypt. While David was king of Israel, Joab slaughtered every male in Edom, but somehow Hadad, who was a young lad at that time, escaped to Egypt. For some reason, Pharaoh had a special affection for Hadad and gave him the queen’s sister for his wife. The son born to Hadad and his Egyptian wife was raised in Pharaoh’s palace, along with Pharaoh’s sons. Nevertheless, when Hadad learned that David and Joab were dead, he asked to return to his homeland. Reluctantly, Pharaoh let him go.

I cannot help but sense a fairly strong element of déjà vu here. The connection with Egypt sounds too much like Joseph and also a bit like Moses. Why are we given all these details? I am inclined to conclude that God wants us to see this connection. Egypt was one of the superpowers of ancient times. God “used” Egypt to protect His people, and then to release them (well-supplied at that). Now, it would seem, God was once again using Egypt to protect Hadad, so that he could be an instrument of divine discipline.

God also raised up Rezon, the son of a runaway slave of King Hadadezer of Zobah (1 Kings 11:23-25). Not nearly as much detail is given concerning Rezon. He organized a band of raiders, and when David sought to kill him, he fled to Damascus. He and his men gained control of the city, and they caused trouble for Israel throughout Solomon’s reign.

Jeroboam

021-rehoboam-jeroboamThe third “troubler of Israel” was Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, one of Solomon’s servants (1 Kings 11:26-40). One does not get the impression that Jeroboam was a troublemaker, out for trouble. It appears, rather, that Solomon himself created his own problems by the way he dealt with this fellow. Jeroboam was an Ephraimite, the son of a widow. He was a very talented and skillful worker. When Solomon commenced the construction of a terrace and was closing the gap in the wall surrounding his palace, Jeroboam was one of his workers. Solomon recognized his abilities and promoted him to leader of the work crew of the tribe of Joseph.

It was at this time that the prophet Ahijah privately took Jeroboam aside and informed him that he would be given ten of the tribes of Israel to lead as king. He underscored this prophecy by tearing his new robe into 12 pieces, and then giving Jeroboam 10 of them. He was told that God would leave one tribe, Judah, for Solomon’s descendants to rule. Ahijah made it clear that the division of the kingdom was the result of Solomon’s sin in worshipping the foreign gods of his many wives. He also indicated that at some time in the future the nation would once again be reunited (11:39). This would be some time in the more distant future, however. God promised Jeroboam great success as the first king of Israel (the ten northern tribes of Israel), but only on the condition that Jeroboam walked in the steps of David:

34 I will not take the whole kingdom from his hand. I will allow him to be ruler for the rest of his life for the sake of my chosen servant David who kept my commandments and rules. 35 I will take the kingdom from the hand of his son and give ten tribes to you. 36 I will leave his son one tribe so my servant David’s dynasty may continue to serve me in Jerusalem, the city I have chosen as my home. 37 I will select you; you will rule over all you desire to have and you will be king over Israel. 38 You must obey all I command you to do, follow my instructions, do what I approve, and keep my rules and commandments, like my servant David did. Then I will be with you and establish for you a lasting dynasty, as I did for David; I will give you Israel. 39 I will humiliate David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.” 40 Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam escaped to Egypt and found refuge with King Shishak of Egypt. He stayed in Egypt until Solomon died (1 Kings 11:34-40).

It is amazing that the prophet makes a promise very much like the Davidic Covenant. Time will reveal that Jeroboam is not like David, and his kingdom will not last. It would appear that Solomon somehow heard of the prophecy of Ahijah – either that or Solomon simply became jealous of Jeroboam. For one reason or another, Solomon sets out to kill Jeroboam, forcing him to flee to Egypt. There, Jeroboam finds refuge, not unlike Hadad, the Edomite. In time, Shishak, king of Egypt, will come to the aid of Jeroboam when he returns to Israel.

The tragedy is that Solomon’s heart is not softened by these adversaries. There is no indication of repentance on his part. He seems to stay the same wicked course until the day of his death. The scene is now set for the division of the kingdom, which occurs shortly after the death of Solomon.

Rehoboam

Rehoboam was Solomon’s son, and it seems that no one disputed the fact that he would be Israel’s next king. All Israel gathered at Shechem to make Rehoboam their next king. The people had sent word to Jeroboam in Egypt, asking him to return to Israel. He gathered with the Israelites at Shechem to make Rehoboam king. Whether Jeroboam served as their spokesman is not indicated, but we do know that he was present. The people had only one request to make of Rehoboam, and they seem to have made it in a respectful and submissive manner: they asked Rehoboam to “lighten up.”

The words of warning, spoken years before by the prophet Samuel, were now coming true:

10 So Samuel spoke all the words of the Lord to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 He said, “Here are the policies of the king who will rule over you: he will conscript your sons and put them in his chariot forces and in his cavalry; they will run in front of his chariot. 12 He will appoint for himself leaders of thousands and leaders of fifties, as well as those who plow his ground, reap his harvest, and make his weapons of war and his chariot equipment. 13 He will take your daughters to be ointment makers, cooks, and bakers. 14 He will take your best fields and vineyards and give them to his own servants. 15 He will demand a tenth of your seed and of the produce of your vineyards and give it to his administrators and his servants. 16 He will take both your male and female servants, as well as your best cattle and your donkeys, and assign them for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you yourselves will be his servants. 18 In that day you will cry out because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, but the Lord won’t answer you in that day” (1 Samuel 8:10-18).

1-kings-12b-dont-figger-it-out-2-638Solomon’s wealth and power had cost the people of Israel a great deal. Solomon had become heavy-handed with them. At the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign, his subjects asked him to consider the severity of his father and to make the proper adjustments.

Rehoboam had the presence of mind to ask for time to seek counsel. He promised to meet with the people and to convey his decision in three days. Rehoboam first inquired of his father’s counselors. One might expect them to reinforce the policy of Solomon, but they did not. (Had they been advising Solomon to “lighten up” as well?) Their counsel to Rehoboam was short, to the point, and wise:

Then they spoke to him, saying, “ If you will be a servant to this people today, will serve them, grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7, NASB, emphasis mine).

This was not the counsel that Rehoboam wanted, however, and so he turned to his “cronies,” the young men with whom he had grown up. Their advice was considerably different:

10 The young advisers with whom Rehoboam had grown up said to him, “Say this to these people who say to you, ‘Your father made us work hard, but now lighten our burden.’ Say this to them: ‘I am a lot tougher than my father. 11 My father imposed heavy demands on you; I will make them even heavier. My father punished you with regular whips; I will punish you with whips that really sting your flesh’” (1 Kings 12:10-11).

Rehoboam was foolish. No doubt his cronies had become used to the “good life,” enjoying the benefits of their association with the king’s son. If they counseled Rehoboam to lessen the demands his father Solomon had imposed on the people, it might mean that they would not live quite as well. Perhaps they had already been corrupted with a lust for power. Whatever the reason, their counsel was foolish. Was Rehoboam trying to impress his friends when he arrogantly promised tougher times for the people?

The brash young king turned a deaf ear to the requests of the people. I doubt that the nation gathered that day, intent on dividing it. I believe they fully intended to serve Rehoboam, as they had served the kings before him. But Rehoboam’s arrogance and highhandedness was just too much for the people to swallow. The seeds of division had been sown years before, as is evident during the reign of David:

41 Then all the men of Israel began coming to the king. They asked the king, “Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, sneak the king away and help the king and his household cross the Jordan—and not only him but all of David’s men as well?” 42 All the men of Judah replied to the men of Israel, “Because the king is our close relative. Why are you so upset about this? Have we eaten at the king’s expense? Or have we misappropriated anything for our own use?” 43 The men of Israel replied to the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and we have a greater claim on David than you do. Why do you want to curse us? Weren’t we the first to suggest bringing back our king?” But the comments of the men of Judah were more severe than those of the men of Israel (2 Samuel 19:41-43).

The ten northern tribes of Israel walk out on Rehoboam and on the united kingdom:

16 When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, the people answered the king, “We have no portion in David, no share in the son of Jesse. Return to your homes, O Israel! Now, look after your own dynasty, O David!” So Israel returned to their homes (1 Kings 12:16).

In my opinion, there was still time and opportunity for reconciliation. But it was God’s will that the kingdom be divided (1 Kings 12:15), and the heart of Rehoboam had been hardened; he refused to back off his strong statements. He went so far as to try to compel the ten tribes to return and to submit. He sent Adoniram, the supervisor of his work crews, after them, but the angry Israelites stoned him to death. They would have no more of Rehoboam’s heavy hand and no more of his royal work crews.

It is only at this point that Jeroboam begins to play a significant role in the rebellion, at least as far as the inspired account of Scripture goes. Jeroboam does not appear to assert himself; rather, the ten tribes seek him out, appointing him as their king:

When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they summoned him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. No one except the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the Davidic dynasty249 (1 Kings 12:20).

It does not sound as though Jeroboam was vocal or public in his opposition to Rehoboam, or that he sought to be appointed as king over the ten northern tribes, even though he had been told this was his destiny. We will soon see that Jeroboam was not a godly man; perhaps he doubted Ahijah’s prophecy. Regardless, the text would seem to suggest that the division of the united kingdom was the result of Solomon’s sin and Rehoboam’s folly, rather than Jeroboam’s political intrigue.

Rehoboam makes one more very foolish effort to restore his rule over all Israel – he summoned the warriors of Judah and Benjamin to go to war with the ten tribes. In response, God sent the prophet Shemaiah to Rehoboam with this message:

23 “Say this to King Rehoboam son of Solomon of Judah, and to all Judah and Benjamin, as well as the rest of the people, 24 ‘The Lord says this: “Do not attack and make war with your brothers, the Israelites. Each of you go home, for I have caused this to happen.”’” They obeyed the Lord and went home as the Lord had ordered them to do (1 Kings 12:23-24).

At least Rehoboam heeded the word of God spoken through the prophet. He sent his warriors home, realizing that the division of the kingdom was ultimately God’s doing.

(To be concluded)

 

 

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