Ikings 11:14–12:33. Divison of Israel Into Two Nations.
the Virtue of Hindsight.
Key Notes: Rehoboam and the young "Turks". Jeroboam's legacy: Israel never recovered. The word of God and the heart of the leaders. Populations shift.
This lesson comes after Solomon's downfall, which, by itself, leaves one speechless. The actions of Solomon's son, Rehoboam and his rival, Jeroboam make it appear that wisdom had departed from Israel. Stupidity rules. Perhaps we can learn from it.
IK.11:14–22. Solomon's peace came to an end and he was faced with a vengeful adversary. Hadad had escaped David and Joab's slaughter of the Edomite army as a child. (IISam.8:14). He was sheltered by Pharaoh in Egypt. He was admired so much that he was given the sister of Pharoah's queen, Tahpenes, as his wife. After David and Joab died, Hadad went back to Edom to harass Israel.
IK.11:23–20 A second guerilla fighter was Rezon who had survived David's destruction of Zobah. (IISam.8:3–4). He established his rule in Syrian Damascus.
We can see that the Syrians in the North-east, and the Edomites in the South, seeking revenge, will be chewing off the edges of Solomon's empire.
IK.11:26 The third contender attacked at the heart of the country. Jeroboam of Ephraim, son of a harlot (LXX), was able, industrious and showed real leadership. Solomon put him in charge of part of the labor force.
Ahijah, a prophet of God, caught up with Jeroboam in the open country and gave him title to the ten northern tribes. These would be detached from Jerusalem and David's lineage. Jeroboam was told that Solomon's successor was losing out because Solomon worshipped foreign gods. Jeroboam was offered God's pledge of support. If he would obey God's laws, his dynasty would be secure. The covenant is similar to that offered to David (IISam.7:14) except that "forever" was not offered to Jeroboam.
Solomon heard about it and tried to assassinate him. Jeroboam escaped to Egypt.
IK.11:41 The end of Solomon's life was not celebrated as David's was. He seems to have died an ordinary king after 40 years of rule and was buried with his fathers. Rehoboam, his son, replaced him. Quite a comedown from his splendor and glory.
12:1–24 Although Jeroboam had been given the tribes by God, he had not been formally acknowledged. Rehoboam made it easy for him. Rehobaam went to Shechem, in Ephraim, to be crowned. Why not in Jerusalem? It suggests that Rehoboam did not have much support from the tribes; they did not come to Jerusalem on their own initiative. He went into what was in fact hostile territory.
Jeroboam came from Egypt to be spokesman for the tribes. He asked Rehoboam for less national labor and less taxes. Solomon's riches were created in part from the "voluntary" labor of Israel as well as the slave labor of the Canaanites. The palace daily consumption was enormous (IK.4:22–28), and the demands of the temple construction were an additional burden. IK.5:10–18
If Rehoboam had listened to the elders instead of the "young Turks" the story might have ended differently. The elders advised Rehoboam to serve the people, speak kindly to them, and win their allegiance. Rehoboam's peers advised him to tough talk, to intimidate the rebellious.
The ten northern tribes disowned the house of David with the same words that Sheba, a Benjaminite, had used more than forty years before. (IISam.20:1). They walked out, never to return. Rehoboam went back to Jerusalem to be crowned there. Then he went ahead conscripting labor by Adoram, his taskmaster, anyway. Adoram was stoned to death and Rehoboam ran for home.
Rehoboam marshaled his army of 180,000 to recapture the northern tribes by force. The prophet Shemaiah blocked his move toward civil war. He told the troops to go home and not fight their kinsmen. The revolt of the northern tribes had come from the LORD. They obeyed. Rehoboam was defeated.
Note this prophetic word: "So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day." (IK.12:19). If we understand "the house of David" to be the source of Messiah, we have a word which is still valid some 2900 years later. Some day the animosity between Israel and Davd's greater Son will be ended. Isa.11:13
IK.12:25–33. For his part, Jeroboam proceeded to fortify the northern city of Shechem as his capitol. But he was still afraid that the tribes would reunite with Judah and kill him. So he consulted with his advisors and created a new (old) religion to keep the tribes from returning to Jerusalem for festivals.
Two golden calves were set up at the south and north borders, one at Bethel, and the other at Dan. "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt" said he, quoting what Aaron had said at Mt. Sinai five-hundred years before. Ex.32:4,8
Along with these idols, he created high places, made priests of non-Levitical lineages and decreed an eighth month celebration presumably in imitation of the three festivals of the seventh month in Jerusalem (Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Tabernacles).
What was Jeroboam thinking?
I was handed a kingdom by God!
I won the tribes by default.
But there is hostility on the other side. They may kill me.
I will defend myself by keeping the tribes from fraternizing with Judah.
A little creative religious work will keep them away from Judah and save me and my kingdom.
What was Rehoboam thinking?
The prophet said I would lose 10/12ths of the kingdom
But the prophet spoke to Jeroboam and he is gone to Egypt.
I will ignore the prophecy and go for the coronation.
If you want respect, you have to be tough.
I lost the vote, so I will get the tribes back by force.
Both men heard the word of God and understood it. Both were stubborn and self-willed. God was not sovereign in either man's mind.
•For Rehoboam, the prophet's word was a nuisance, to be ignored if possible.
•To Jeroboam, God was a prop, not his foundation. Consequently he would go on with his own plans as soon as he felt that the prop was no longer relevant. He at once ignored the command to follow the Lord and disobeyed in a destructive way--destructive to himself and the tribes. He is remembered forever as the king who led Israel into sin. (IIK. 10:31). That is his legacy.
Paul describes him well:
"...when they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks for Him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened; professing to be wise they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling...animals...." Rom.1:21–22)
What were the northern tribes people thinking?
"The new religion gives me a job. I'm happy."
"One religion is as good as another."
"There is mischief afoot. I am leaving for Judah."
The priests and Levites in Israel left their homes and lands and went to Judah. Those of Israel who set their hearts to seek the LORD came after them and strengthened Judah. (IIChron.11:13-17).The good were extracted out of the tribes and concentrated in Judah. So we see a weakening but also a purifying of the nation.
It fills us with dismay to see a small kingdom that lies on the trade routes to Africa, Asia and Europe become divided and seriously weakened. Why did God direct this schism in His Kingdom?
God has to remind us often that the Kingdom is not about us.
"But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, to show that the transcendent power belongs to God and not to us." (IICor.4:7)