1 Kings 11:26-13:32
The lengthy treatment of Solomon comes to a close in 1 Kings 11. After portraying his rise to power, his prayer for discernment and understanding, and the unrivaled successes that Solomon enjoyed, the author of 1 Kings concludes his treatment of Solomon by revealing Solomon the sinner in chapter 11. First Kings 11:1-13 deals with Solomon's sin of turning his heart away from God because of his foreign wives. First Kings 11:14-40 describes resistance to Solomon that developed in the later part of his life. The emphasis of these verses is on Jeroboam (verses 26-40), who was exiled by Solomon after Ahijah the prophet prophesied of Jeroboam's role in a divided kingdom. First Kings 11:41-43 present the traditional formulas mentioning Solomon's death, sources for further information on his reign, and his successor.
First Kings 12 lays out the conversations that led to the division of Solomon's kingdom under his son, Rehoboam. Jeroboam's reign of the Northern Kingdom is narrated in the last part of chapter 12 and the opening verses of chapter 13. The majority of chapter 13 is devoted to a complicated story of an old prophet and a man of God.
1 Kings 11:14-43 - Opposition to Solomon (cont.)
The author of 1 Kings presents three little portraits of resistance against Solomon's rule. It is doubtful that only three people ever gave Solomon difficulty. It is also doubtful that no resistance occurred until near the end of Solomon's reign. Access to all the historical facts would probably reveal various levels of resistance throughout Solomon's reign. However, the author of 1 Kings presents these three portraits of resistance as evidence of God's judgment on Solomon because of his sin. The first two illustrate the principle of Deuteronomy 28:20-25 that disobedience to God will lead to national disasters. First Kings 11:14 and 23 specifically state that the LORD raised up an adversary against Solomon. One cannot escape the conclusion that the LORD led, or at least used, these adversaries to oppose Solomon as punishment for his sins.
The first adversary mentioned is Hadad the Edomite. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, and there was an especially bitter animosity between Israel and Edom throughout the Old Testament period. The territory of Edom was to the south and southeast of Israel, south of the Dead Sea. Second Samuel 8:13-14 indicates that David conquered Edom and reduced the population to slave status. According to 1 Chronicles 18:12 and the Greek version of 2 Samuel 8:13-14 there was a great slaughter of Edomites at that time.
Hadad was a child of the Edomite royal family who was smuggled out of Israelite control to Egypt. While in Egypt Hadad grew up, married into the Egyptian royal family, and had a son who was raised in the Pharaoh's court. However, when David died, Hadad returned to Edom to harass Solomon. It is clear that Hadad did not possess the capacity to regain total control of Edom. If he had he would have effectively cut off Solomon's access to Ezion-Geber and the trade routes to the south. It is most likely that Hadad engaged in guerilla-type warfare against Solomon. Perhaps, like others since him, Hadad operated out of the area of Petra, creating disruption and loss to Solomon, but not worth the effort required to find and dislodge him from Petra. However, the fact that Hadad opposed Solomon was sign that Israel's power had declined in Edom from the time of David, a clear indication of the judgment of God.
The second adversary was Rezon from Zobah. These verses appear to be the continuation of material found in 2 Samuel 8:3-12 describing David's defeat of Rezon's master, King Hadadezer. The location of Zobah is uncertain, but it was north of Israel and not too far from Damascus. Some scholars postulate that it was, or was near, Baalbeck, about halfway between Damascus and Tripoli.
Verses 23-25 describe Rezon as having rebelled against Hadadezer and having established his own band of fighters who went to Damascus and gained control of that area. With Damascus as base, Rezon harassed Solomon. Once again the point of these few verses is to show the deterioration of Solomon's control over the northern area compared to David's control. Rezon's resistance was a sign of God's punishment on Solomon's disobedience.
The real focus for the resistance against Solomon is Jeroboam. First Kings 11:26-40 describes the occasion of Jeroboam's opposition. These verses portray both Jeroboam's competence with accompanying approval from Solomon and his encounter with a prophet who graphically prophesied the division of the kingdom at the death of Solomon.
Verse 26 describes Jeroboam as a servant of Solomon. The context of 1 Kings suggests that the term servant here refers to an officer over all the forced labor. The name Jeroboam meant "may the people be great" and it appears to have symbolic meaning. Chapter 12 will introduce Solomon's successor, Rehoboam, whose name meant, "may the people be extended." Thus Jeroboam's name was a political statement calling for greater respect for the people, and thus less emphasis on the king and rulers.
Verse 28 portrays Jeroboam as very able and industrious. The Hebrew phrase translated very able is ambiguous and may have referred to Jeroboam's social status rather than his personal talents. Thus he was man of social standing, or a well-to-do person. The second descriptor points to his personal energy and effectiveness. On the basis both of his status and his effectiveness Solomon was impressed and promoted him to oversee all the forced labor of the house of Joseph. The phrase, "house of Joseph" would have referred to either part or all of the tribes that would become the Northern Kingdom, the group that rebelled against Solomon's son. Thus Solomon himself promoted Jeroboam to the position of leadership over the tribes that were most unhappy with Solomon's kingly rule.
These verses never specify exactly why Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon. Verses 26-27 simply state that he rebelled. Verses 29-39 describe the prophet Ahijah's revelation to Jeroboam. Ahijah stated that God had decided to tear the kingdom from Solomon's son and to give the ten northern tribes to Jeroboam.
Verse 40 then indicates that Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam, but the young officer fled to Egypt for safety. The implication, though it is never stated, is that Ahijah's revelation caused Jeroboam to initiate a rebellion against Solomon. It is also possible to suggest that Jeroboam resisted Solomon's orders regarding the forced labor. Perhaps he refused to work them as hard as Solomon required to achieve certain goals and thus he incurred the wrath of the king. Jeroboam may simply have become the spokesman for the discontent of the northern tribes over the amount of taxation and labor they had to provide compared to the benefit they received. It is possible that all three of these factors were involved in Jeroboam's resistance and Solomon's decision to eliminate him.
Verses 14 and 23 indicated that God had raised up Hadad and Rezon against Solomon. The wording suggests that they had no understanding that they were part of the work and will of God in punishing Solomon. On the other hand the story of Jeroboam is not introduced with a similar remark about being raised up by God. Instead God directly revealed to Jeroboam his role in the future of the kingdom's division by means of the prophet Ahijah. Thus Jeroboam is aware of God's purposes that are about to unfold in his life. The story of Ahijah's prophecy emphasizes that the meeting between Ahijah and Jeroboam took place in private, on the open road in the country. It emphasizes that it was a new garment that Ahijah tore into twelve pieces. Ahijah was performing what scholars now call prophetic symbolism in which an action itself becomes the vehicle for a message from God. The newness of the garment is important because it has not been used for any purpose other than communicating the plan of God for Jeroboam.
The mathematics of this passage is puzzling. The garment is torn into twelve pieces representing the twelve tribes. Ten pieces of the garment representing ten tribes will be given to Jeroboam. One tribe will remain for Solomon's son. How does 10 + 1 = 12? The easiest way to understand the problem is to assume that Judah, David and Solomon's tribe, would automatically remain loyal to the Davidic line. To Judah is then added one tribe, the tribe of Benjamin, which also is loyal to Solomon's son. The other ten tribes will secede and be ruled by Jeroboam.
Joshua 13-19 allotted the tribes of Simeon, Dan, and Reuben land in the southern part of Palestine. However, by the time of Solomon these tribes were occupying land further north. The ten tribes that followed Jeroboam were all north of a line running roughly east and west a few miles south of the city of Bethel. For that reason Bible scholars traditionally speak of the ten tribes as the Northern Kingdom and the two tribes that remained loyal to the Davidic line as the Southern Kingdom. These terms do not appear in Scripture but are the common terminology used in the study of the Old Testament.
Ahijah not only asserted the division of the kingdom; he repeated the case against Solomon in verse 33. There Ahijah describes Solomon as having forsaken the LORD. This is an important point. God had promised in 1 Kings 6:13 and 8:57 not to forsake or abandon Israel. The problem was not with God; it was with Israel and her leaders. They forsook God. This theme is consistently portrayed throughout 1 and 2 Kings (1 Kings 9:9; 11:33; 18:18; 19:10, 14; 2 Kings 17:16; 21:22; 22:17).
The tragedy of the Babylonian Captivity is no fault of God's. He remained faithful. Israel is the one that forsook the LORD who could have and who wanted to preserve her from her enemies. However, the covenant required that even the faithful, merciful God would have to someday punish Israel for her idolatrous rebellion against Him. The amazing thing was not that the people were in captivity because of their sins; the amazing thing was how long God had postponed their punishment, giving them chance after chance to repent. First and 2 Kings is the story of God's grace in the face of Israel's sin.
Ahijah's message was also amazing in the promise offered to Jeroboam. Verses 37-38 offer to Jeroboam basically the same promise given to David. The condition of the promise was that Jeroboam listen/obey the LORD, walk in His ways, and keep the commandments of the covenant. If Jeroboam would do that, God promised to establish an enduring kingdom for him just as He gave David an enduring kingdom. This indicates that God's love of David was not a "teacher's pet" type of favoritism. God is anxious to shower blessing on us. He only seeks people who will be faithfully obedient to Him as He is faithfully committed to us. Obedience and devotion to God will produce a rich and powerful relationship with the LORD regardless of our spiritual ancestry.
Verse 40 indicates that Solomon wanted to kill Jeroboam, but the young man fled to Egypt for asylum under Pharaoh Shishak. This is the first pharaoh to be named by the Bible. Estimates of when Shishak came to power in Egypt range from 945 to 935 BC and he ruled until 914 BC. He appears to have founded a new dynasty (ruling family) in Egypt so it is not likely that it was his daughter or sister that Solomon married. In fact, if the old dynasty had made the marriage alliance with Solomon, Shishak might have welcomed Jeroboam as a threat to Solomon's throne as a part of his own campaign of discrediting the old regime of Egypt. We have no way of knowing the date that Jeroboam fled to Egypt, but it would have had to have been in the last half of Solomon's reign since Shishak did not gain the throne of Egypt until then.
1 Kings 12:1-33 - The Division of the Kingdom
The author of 1 Kings closed the book on Solomon with the typical formulas referring to other sources of information, the length of the king's reign, the king slept with his fathers (he died), burial place, and the name of his successor. This information is found in 1 Kings 11:41-43. It follows a pattern that will become very familiar by the end of 2 Kings.
Rehoboam, Solomon's son, followed him on the throne. First Kings 12:1 passes lightly over more politics than we can know. Rehoboam went to Shechem because all Israel had assembled there to make him king. If all were well in the kingdom Rehoboam would have been crowned in Jerusalem, the capital city. In fact, many scholars assume that some coronation ceremony at Jerusalem was done immediately at the occasion of Solomon's death.
However, the phrase "all Israel" especially points to the northern tribes. Shechem was at the heart of the northern territory, some 40 miles north of Jerusalem. The northern tribes had gone south to Hebron according to 2 Samuel 5:1-3 to agree to David's kingship over all the tribes. It is clear that Rehoboam begins from a position of weakness. The northern tribes assembled at Shechem and demanded that he appear in their territory at the time they appointed for them to consider whether he will be their king. This event did not happen within a few days of Solomon's death because Jeroboam was notified in Egypt and came to lead the meeting.
The request of the northern tribes was that Rehoboam lighten the hard service that had been placed on them by Solomon. This confirms the hint from 1 Kings 4:7-19 that the northern tribes furnished a much larger percentage of taxes and of forced labor than did the southern tribes. The request is for justice and equality in the burden of supporting the expenses of the monarchy in Jerusalem. If Rehoboam would make the appropriate adjustments the northern tribes promised to serve him.
Rehoboam asked for three days to consider their request and promised a reply at the end of that time. The author of 1 Kings could have easily skipped over the story of Rehoboam seeking advice and quickly have given the bottom-line decision that was not revealed until verses 13-15. However, several goals are accomplished by the way in which the material in verses 5-12 is presented.
First, the delay in the decision creates a sense of suspense and interest in the decision. Narratively, it helps to pull the reader into the story and to become more personally involved. Secondly, the discussion of Rehoboam with the older men and the younger men provides a dramatic insight into the new king's character. Most readers - especially the original readers - would respond negatively to the way Rehoboam treated the older men. This enables the reader who might be inclined to believe the kingdom should have stayed together to more easily accept the division. In fact, since God had already announced the division, the portrayal of Rehoboam as arrogant and manipulative helps the reader affirm God's will in the division of the kingdom.
Rehoboam asked the older men who had stood with Solomon how to respond to the people's request. He did not bother to identify the request; the older men knew what it was. Their advice revealed more wisdom than had been shown by Solomon in part of his administration. If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them and speak good words to them then they will be your servants forever. If you will be considerate of their feelings and needs now you can win their loyalty and have their support through thick and thin.
Two contrasts create the power of the answer of the older men. First, the contrast between today and forever raises the question of whether one lives for the moment or for the long haul. How much short-term sacrifice is possible to achieve the long-term goal? Biblical wisdom is always ready to sacrifice peripheral matters in the present in order to gain the central purposes of God in the long term.
Second, the contrast between the king as servant and the people as servants is striking. This is a contrast between the way God looked at the role of the king and the way the kings of the surrounding cultures viewed themselves. God always understood the king to a servant to the people because the king represented God and God, even the God of the Old Testament, served His people. (When Jesus described himself as a servant he was incarnating a significant aspect of the nature of God; he was not introducing a strange new idea.) It is a secular view that the king (or any other leader of God's people) may lord it over the people and expect their submission and service without him having a servant's heart.
Rehoboam had no use for the advice that the older men gave him. The Hebrew verb in verse 8 is "forsook." This connects Rehoboam's response to Solomon's sin of forsaking God mentioned in 1 Kings 11:33. Rehoboam willfully abandoned the advice of the older men and turned to the young men who had grown up with him. The way these younger men are described makes it clear that their position in the government depended on staying in favor with Rehoboam. Thus their first motivation will not be to give him the best advice, but to tell him what he wanted to hear.
Rehoboam repeats the request of the northern tribes to the younger men, but the way the question is phrased, what shall we answer these people, already reveals Rehoboam's desire. The young men's advice is arrogant and ignores the dynamics of human relationships. Sarcastically they suggest that the burden be increased rather than lightened. They responded with slogans reflecting cruelty (scorpions instead of whips) and possibly obscenity. The Hebrew text speaks of my "little thing" which most English versions paraphrase to my "little finger." Many Hebrew scholars believe the phrase was a euphemism for penis. "My penis is bigger than my father's thigh."
Rehoboam chose to follow the arrogant advice of the younger men. As Richard Nelson notes, "Rehoboam chooses slogans over wisdom, machismo over servanthood." But the northern tribes had their own slogans as verse 16 reveals. What portion do we have in David?, may well have been a political slogan used frequently in the north by those who opposed David, Solomon, and now Rehoboam. Rehoboam's arrogant response and the northern tribes' answer mark the end of the united kingdom. The northerners returned to their homes and make Jeroboam their king.
Verse 18 records one abortive attempt by Rehoboam to regain control. He sent the chief officer over forced labor, Adoram, north. It is not clear whether Adoram carried the offer of a compromise or came with the ill-advised idea of forcing compliance. When he was murdered Rehoboam realized the seriousness of the situation and quickly withdrew to safety in Jerusalem.
Rehoboam then assembled troops from the two southern tribes with the intention of invading the north and forcibly restoring them to his kingdom. One man stopped the bloodshed. Shemaiah, the man of God, received a message from God to tell Rehoboam to not invade the northern tribes. The division was God's will. It is to Rehoboam's credit that he heard and obeyed this word from God. Though occasional border conflicts broke out between the Northern and Southern kingdoms, they were spared the horrible bloodshed that all-out war for control would have brought.
The reign of Jeroboam over the Northern Kingdom is describe in 1 Kings 12:25-14:20. His first act was to make Shechem his capital and to build a palace there. Verse 25 speaks of Jeroboam "building" Shechem and Penuel. The Hebrew word suggests building up or fortifying these two cities. The fortification of Shechem was a natural attempt to defend himself. Penuel was on the east border of the nation. It was designed to prevent Rehoboam from a flanking action from east of the Jordan. The second decision of Jeroboam was a religious one and is described in 1 Kings 12:26-32.
Jeroboam feared that his people from the Northern Kingdom would regularly return to Jerusalem to worship at the great temple built by Solomon. The great festivals would provide three opportunities each year for northerners to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to worship. Jeroboam feared that such regular contact with the Southern kingdom would rekindle their sense of loyalty to Rehoboam. They might change their minds about division, depose him, and reunite the nation. As a result Jeroboam decided to rebuild Israel's religion from scratch himself. The most significant aspect of these ideas is that they sprang from Jeroboam himself. God did not reveal any of this to him; no prophet or court advisor brought it up. These were ideas that sprang from Jeroboam's own political fears and sense of insecurity.
The most radical innovation made by Jeroboam was the creation of two golden calves to be the objects of worship in the Northern Kingdom. One was placed at Bethel, on the southern border of the nation and the other at Dan on the northern border. Jeroboam presented the calves to the Israelites as the gods who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Many historians believe that Jeroboam did not intend to introduce idolatry and polytheism into Israel. The Ark of the Covenant resided under the cherubim in Jerusalem. Jeroboam may have only intended to provide an alternative symbol to the cherubim as a place where the presence of God could be found. Regardless of his intention, the result was that he did introduce idolatry and polytheistic habits into the Northern Kingdom. The writer of 1 Kings will tolerate no mixed motives. Jeroboam sinned and caused Israel to sin by introducing the golden calves.
A series of other violations of the covenant followed. Jeroboam created local sanctuaries at the high places, which opened the way for Baal worship. He appointed for himself priests who did not meet the Biblical requirements of Levitical ancestry. Jeroboam then created his own religious festival during the eighth month. This was designed to replace the festivals of Passover, Weeks, and Tabernacles commanded to Moses for Israel to observe. Having put all the sanctuaries, priests, festivals, and sacrifices in place Jeroboam proceeded to lead Israel in the new faith that he had created.
The rest of 1 and 2 Kings will regularly look back to this religious innovation of Jeroboam as the archetypical pattern of sin in Israel. While he feared Israel would turn its heart back to Jerusalem, he turned the nation away from the LORD and is universally condemned for setting the Northern Kingdom on a course bound for destruction, a course from which they never turned back. Gene Rice makes the following perceptive comments about Jeroboam:
Jeroboam stands forever as a warning against taking ourselves more seriously than we take God.
1 Kings 13:1-32 - God's Rejection of Jeroboam's Religion
First Kings 13 unfolds two stories that stand alone but are connected by the common figure of "a man of God." The stories feature miracles, deceit, and unexpected turns of events. The meaning is not clear until the end.
Though the Northern Kingdom had separated from the Davidic throne the nations still shared a common spiritual heritage and a strong sense of family connectedness. As Jeroboam prepared to offer sacrifices on the new altar constructed at Bethel a man of God from Judah (in the south) appeared to denounce the new altar. This action was not by his own initiative; he came by the word of the LORD.
The three major festivals were the main times at which Israel's faith in the LORD was nurtured and passed on to their children. The glory of the LORD that came into the temple (1 Kings 8:10-11) in Jerusalem when it was dedicated confirmed God's will that worship be done there. For Jeroboam to build another place of worship, to create another festival at a different time, and to officiate at it unlawfully posed a severe threat to God's people. The man of God was sent to announce God's judgment on these new arrangements. New can never substitute for that which is ordained by God.
As part of his condemnation of the new altar the man of God announced that the altar would be torn down and its ashes . . . poured out. When Jeroboam gestured to his guards to arrest the man of God, his outstretched hand was suddenly withered and paralyzed so that he could not pull it back. In that moment the altar was torn down and the ashes spilled out. The prophecy was fulfilled.
Jeroboam then recognized the man of God as having prophetic authority from God. He begged the man to pray that his hand be restored. When that was accomplished Jeroboam urged the man of God to eat with him and to receive a gift from him. The motivation of Jeroboam is not mentioned, but the pattern of his life suggests that he intended to capture the man of God by kindness and find a way to nullify his prophetic condemnation of the new religious system. However, the man of God does not respond to the flattering invitation of the king. He has come in obedience to a commission from God and that commission is not yet fully obeyed. He must not eat or drink and he must return to Judah by a different route than that by which he came.
At this point the story takes a very strange turn. While returning home to Judah the man of God is met by an old prophet from Bethel who invites him to eat with him. When the man of God refuses because of the commission given him by God, the old prophet lied and claimed that an angel had given him a word from the LORD to bring the man of God home to eat and drink. The man of God from Judah is taken in by this deception and he went home with the old prophet and ate and drank with him.
In the midst of the meal the old prophet delivers a word from God to the man announcing an untimely and violent death will come upon him because he disobeyed the commission he had received in Judah. Almost immediately, in the story, the man of God from Judah resumed his journey and was killed by a lion. Even more amazing the lion did not mangle the man of God's body nor kill his donkey, but stood by the road guarding the body.
When the news came to the old prophet of Bethel he went out and retrieved the body and buried it in his own grave. He then announced his desire to be buried with the man of God from Judah because his condemnation of the new religion was right and that God would bring judgment against Bethel and the high places of worship that Jeroboam had built.
The story is a confusing jumble of deceit and violence to most modern readers. In that, it accurately reflects the reality of life in the Northern Kingdom at that time. More importantly the story powerfully illustrates the necessity of complete unswerving obedience to God. To disobey even when a leader says that it is all right will bring swift judgment from God. The lesson for the Northern Kingdom was powerful. To follow Jeroboam in the new religious practices would bring judgment and a violent end to the nation. The story directs us to strict obedience to the word of God in a day and age when many voices tell us the God has other agendas than those found in His word.
Study Questions for Reflection and Discussion
These readings and study questions are in preparation for next week's lesson.
These are study and reflection questions to facilitate a weeklong devotional journey into the Books of Kings. As you begin each day pray that the Lord will speak to you through His Word and that the Holy Spirit will breathe spiritual life into your heart through your study and reflection.
First Day: Read the notes on 1 Kings 11:26-13:32. Look up the Scripture references given.
1. Identify one or two new areas of understanding that seemed important to you.
2. Select one or two spiritual insight that you would like to apply to your own life. Describe the way they would apply to you.
3. Write a brief prayer asking the Lord to avoid the mistakes of Solomon, Rehoboam, and Jeroboam.
Second Day: Read 1 Kings 13:33-14:31. Now focus on 1 Kings 13:33-14:20.
1. Why did Jeroboam send his wife to the prophet Ahijah?
2. Summarize the main points of Ahijah's prophecy to Jeroboam's wife.
3. What is the reason for God's strong punishment of Jeroboam? What application can we make from that to our own lives?
Third Day: Read 1 Kings 13:33-14:31. Focus in on 1 Kings 14:21-31.
1. How does the reign of Rehoboam in the Southern Kingdom compare with the reign of Jeroboam in the Northern Kingdom?
2. What signs of spiritual disobedience are attributed to Judah during Rehoboam's reign?
3. In light of Deuteronomy 28:15 and 25 what do you think the author of 1 Kings thought was the meaning of Shishak's military success against Rehoboam? What do you think Shishak's invasion signified?
Fourth Day: Read 1 Kings 14:21-15:34. Now focus on 1 Kings 15:1-15.
1. What information do the focus verses provide you about Maacah the daughter of Abishalom?
2. How would you compare and contrast the reigns of Abijam and Asa?
3. What does the author say about the hearts of Abijam and Asa? Why does he emphasize their hearts? What would he say about your heart?
Fifth Day: Read 1 Kings 15:1-16:14. Now focus in on 1 Kings 15:16-34.
1. What strategy did King Asa follow to overcome Baasha? Do you think that was the best approach? Does 1 Kings condemn what he did?
2. Do you think God desires a spiritual approach in all our actions? How can you know when to rely on prayer and when to use human strategies?
3. Based on the focus verses and 1 Kings 14:1-16, how does the author of 1 Kings interpret Nadab being assassinated by Baasha? Do you believe God would use murder as punishment? Why?
Sixth Day: Read 1 Kings 15:1-16:14. Now focus on 1 Kings 16:1-14.
1. What role does Jehu play in these focus verses?
2. What impression of the political stability of the Northern Kingdom do the focus verses give you? What spiritual climate do you sense? What do you think God should have done for the Northern Kingdom?
3. After reading these verses, what concerns do you have for your state and national governments? Write a brief prayer expressing your concern to the Lord.