Solomon’s son and successor to the throne Rehoboam ignored the people’s request for him to cut them some slack on labor and tax demands. They rebelled against him and stoned Adoniram, whom he had sent to quell the uprising. “When this news reached King Rehoboam, he quickly jumped into his chariot and fled to Jerusalem” (I Kings 12:18b, NLT).
Next, the people made Jeroboam king over Israel, but Judah and Benjamin stuck with Rehoboam. Rehoboam, however, wasn’t at all satisfied with having only a remnant of his original realm. So, “When Rehoboam arrived at Jerusalem, he mobilized the men of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin – 180,000 select troops – to fight against the men of Israel and to restore the kingdom to himself” (I Kings 12:21).
“But God said to Shemaiah, the man of God, ‘Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the people of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Do not fight against your relatives, the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened is My doing!’’ So they obeyed the message of the Lord and went home, as the Lord had commanded” (I Kings 12:22-24).
Rehoboam was at least smart enough to listen this time. Instead of warring against his fellow Israelites, he “went home, as the Lord had commanded.”
And Jeroboam, who was appointed king over the ten tribes? He proved to be one huge disappointment.
“Jeroboam then built up the city of Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and it became his capital. Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘Unless I am careful, the kingdom will return to the dynasty of David. When these people go to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices at the Temple of the Lord, they will again give their allegiance to King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and make him their king instead” (I Kings 12:25a, 26-27).
Jeroboam didn’t want the people going to Jerusalem to worship and offer sacrifices in the Temple because this would put them in Rehoboam’s territory. Fearing that Rehoboam might regain the people’s loyalty, Jeroboam came up with a plan to keep the people away from the Temple.
“So on the advice of his counselors, the king made two gold calves. He said to the people, ‘It is too much trouble for you to worship in Jerusalem. Look, Israel, these are the gods who brought you out of Egypt!’ He placed these calf idols in Bethel and in Dan – at either end of his kingdom. But this became a great sin, for the people worshiped the idols, traveling as far north as Dan to worship the one there” (I Kings 12:28-30).
What was Jeroboam thinking!?! The Lord had told him the ten tribes were being taken away because “Solomon has abandoned Me and worshiped Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians; Chemosh, the god of Moab; and Molech, the god of the Ammonites. He has not followed My ways and done what is pleasing in My sight” (I Kings 11:33a).
And hadn’t the Lord also given Jeroboam the conditions of his own kingship? “If you listen to what I tell you and follow My ways and do whatever I consider to be right, and if you obey My decrees and commands, as my servant David did, then I will always be with you. I will establish an enduring dynasty for you as I did for David, and I will give Israel to you” (I Kings 11:38).
Jeroboam knew the ten tribes were taken from Rehoboam because of Solomon’s idolatry. He knew his own kingship was conditional on his being obedient to the Lord. And yet his new position of authority so went to his head that he thought he could ignore God and get away with it.
No one can. “Each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12, NASB).
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates