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The Story of the Divided Kingdom

AN EXPOSITION OF 1 KINGS 11, 12

The whole panoramic story of the Bible begins with creation, and moves to the promises found in the apocalypse of a new heaven and new earth in glory. A large part of the story revolves around the sands of the Sinai Peninsula, where God gathers up a group of people to work with, and through. The Lord chose the Hebrew people for no other reason than His sovereign pleasure. “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: 8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut. 7:7-8)

After showing Himself mighty on behalf of the Hebrew people in slavery, the Lord brought the people out of bondage, established them in a Land of Milk and Honey, and exalted them in a united kingdom under the leadership of King David and his son, Solomon. These were the Golden Years of Hebrew History. Tragically, the glory of the United Kingdom was diminished at the end of the life of Solomon.

A Social Uprising

1 KINGS 11:26-27

     26 And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon’s servant, whose mother’s name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king.

As David had to endure rebellion and palace intrigue during his reign, so did Solomon during his reign. Jeroboam would prove to be a disloyal subject, for “he lifted up his hand against the king.

The Reason for Revolt

     27 And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breaches of the city of David his father.

The building of Millo, or the terraces of a well-known fortress, and the repairing of the breaches of the City of David, angered Jeroboam to the point that he was willing to wage a civil war against Solomon. The reason these fortification projects were so offensive to Jeroboam was because Solomon foolishly enslaved his own people to accomplish his will, and then taxed the people heavily for these projects, and others.

“And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the LORD, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.” (1 Kings 9:15)

Many people did not want to be tools of the government to enhance the power and glory of the few. So Jeroboam led a slave rebellion against the king. In a surprising move, to placate Jeroboam, instead of having him arrested and executed, the young rebel was promoted.

1 KINGS 11:28-40

     28 And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph.

It was Jeroboam whom Solomon had selected, because of his bravery and industry, to be over the labor core of building his expansive building project.

The Prophet Ahijah and Jeroboam

     29 And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field:

The Tearing of the New Garment

     30 And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces:

     31 And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee:

The prophet Ahijah, arrayed in a new garment, decided to use it as an object lesson to symbolize an impending action of God. The twelve pieces represent the twelve tribes of Israel. Jeroboam was to take ten of the twelve pieces.

A Remnant According to the Election of Grace

     32 (But he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel 🙂

The tribe of Judah was to remain intact, according to the promise made to Jacob. “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen. 49:10)

The dynasty that God created with David, is a royal succession that is given to the tribe of Judah. Out of respect to Jacob, and to David, there would be a remnant according to the election of grace. Judah and Benjamin would form the Southern Kingdom of the divided Jewish nation.

The Sin of Idolatry

 Ashtoreth * Chemosh * Milcom

     33 Because that they have forsaken me, and have worshipped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the children of Ammon, and have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father.

     34 Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes:

     35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes.

     36 And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.

The Divided Kingdom is Definite

Northern Kingdom = Israel * Southern Kingdom = Judah

     37 And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel.

     38 And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee.

     39 And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever. 40 Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam. And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.”

1 KINGS 12:1-7

Jeroboam was the first king of Israel. He was the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite, by a woman named Zeruah, who became a widow.

Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, by the Ammonite princess Naamah. He was born c. 972 BC.

Rehoboam: The Successor of Solomon

     1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.

Jeroboam: The Challenger to the Throne

     2 And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;)

     3 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

The Last Chance for Unity

Lower the Taxes

     4 Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

A Request for Time

     5 And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.

Wise Counsel
If the King will Serve the People,
the People will Serve the King

     6 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

     7 And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever.

The role of a king is not to oppress his people, but to serve them as an instrument of God’s grace and mercy. The king of Israel was never given the authority of autonomy. Every king in the nation was accountable to the King’s Law. They were subservient to Yahweh, who alone would rule the nation.

However, the historical record is that one king after another arrogated to themselves the authority, and respect, that properly belongs only to God. The counsel to Rehoboam was to serve the people, and they would serve him.

1 KINGS 12:8-11

     8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

Rehoboam foolishly rejected the wise and godly counsel he was given, and invited the opinion of other, younger men, who would tell him what he wanted to hear.

     9 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

     10 And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.

     11 And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.

The “Young Turks” are full of themselves. Their counsel to Rehoboam was that he reject the wisdom of older men, enhance the power he enjoyed, increase the taxes on the people, and make them work harder.

A Predictable Reaction: Revolt

1 KINGS 12:16-17     

     16 So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.

     17 But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.

The nation of Israel became divided. The division would last for centuries, leading to horrific acts of bloodshed and violence. It could have been avoided. People do not have to be divided, and hateful, one to another.

Sinful and Selfish Pursuits

1 KINGS 12:25-27

     25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.

Continuing his building program, Jeroboam constructed for himself a dwelling place in Shechem, in Mount Ephraim, and then he built Penuel.

The Problem with Paranoia

     26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

     27 If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.

The civil unrest in the Northern Kingdom led to additional acts of evil in the form of idolatry as Jeroboam set up two places of false worship. Jeroboam believed that his people would turn against him if they were allowed to have fellowship with the people in the Southern Kingdom through acts of worship. The king decided to stop people from going to Jerusalem, in the Southern Kingdom, to worship. So he set up an altar in Bethel, and he built another altar at Dan. Then, Jeroboam made two calves of gold, and told the people they were the ancient gods of power.

     28 Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

The Northern Kingdom, after the division, lasted for about 200 years. In 722 BC, it would fall to the Assyrians. In that period there are 19 kings, one queen, and 9 dynastic families. The average length of a king was ten years, as 9 dynasties competed for the throne. There was so much corruption, so much division, and so much palace intrigue in the Northern Kingdom, there was simply no stability.

One of the more stable families in the Northern Kingdom was the House of Omri. He was responsible for establishing the city of Samaria as the capitol of the Northern Kingdom, and therefore a rival to Jerusalem. While Omri was despicable in his religious behavior, he was a capable ruler of people. Because of this ability, Omri was able to accentuate the worship of idolatry in the Northern Kingdom.

One of his descendants was Ahab, whose name is synonymous with evil. It was Ahab who married the pagan zealot, Jezebel. Jezebel wanted to turn the hearts of the people of Northern Israel to her god, Baal. With the rise of evil in the Northern Kingdom, God, in His matchless mercy, sent a series of prophets to preach the gospel of repentance. Elijah was one such prophet.

In the Southern Kingdom, there is more stability, and some godly rulers. There were reforms that took place from time to time that allowed the Southern Kingdom to last for about 350 years after the division, or until 586 BC. In the Southern there were 20 kings but there was only one dynastic family, the family of David. The House of David was preserved from generation to generation, as the Lord had promised.

With the fall of the Southern Kingdom, the destruction of the kingdom of the nation of Israel was complete. The booth of David had fallen. The house of David was entangled with snares and weeds. The light of Israel went out. But all was not lost for God would one day restore the booth of David. One day God would give to His Son the kingdom of David, forever. And of His kingdom there is no end.

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