A HOUSE DIVIDED
1 Kings 12
1 Kings 1-11
1 Kings 12-ff
For the rest of the books of
Kings, we will see
THE MEETING AT SHECHEM
Then Rehoboam went to Shechem,
The fact that the planned
coronation of the king was to take place at Shechem is significant.
The name “Shechem” describes
“the space between the shoulder blades.”
The town lay exactly between the two mountains of Gerazim
and Ebal. It
was here that
Shechem lay in the
geographical center of the
The fact that Shechem was to be the site of the inaugural ceremonies was evidence that there was already a schism of spirit between Judah and the other tribes.
THE TRIBAL PETITION
2 Now when Jeroboam the son
of Nebat heard of it, he was living in
3 Then they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” (1 Kings 12:2-4).
The tribal leaders call
Jeroboam from where he had been banished to
Son of Solomon and heir apparent of the kingdom
Former appointee over the forced labor projects of Solomon
A young man?
A mature man
From the tribe of
From the tribe of Ephraim
The request which was made of Rehoboam was for a lightening of the “hard service” and the “heavy yoke” which had been imposed by Solomon.
Solomon’s building projects
had not been cheap. They had been great
and they had been wondrous, but they had also placed a heavy burden upon the
The bad news was that taxes were higher than ever before. The good news was that the economy was good so that people had been able to pay the demands. But now they come asking for relief.
COUNSEL FOR THE KING
5 Then he said to them, “Depart for three days, then return to me.” So the people departed.
6 King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?”
7 Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”
8 But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him.
9 So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?”
10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins!
11 “‘Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’” (1 Kings 12:5-11).
Rehoboam takes the petition of the tribes under advisement and asks three days to study the matter. During this time, he solicits the counsel of his advisors. They are polarized into two groups.
The Young Men
They had served as advisors to Solomon
They had grown up with Rehoboam
“Be a servant to the people, grant them their petition, and speak good words to them”
“Threaten the people with even greater burdens”
Notice the chiastic formula of the advice of the Elders in verse 7. It is presented in a cause and effect motif.
If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them
Then they will be your servants forever.
And answer them
And speak to them good words
There is a lesson here. It is a lesson of leadership. He who would learn to be a leader must first learn to be a servant.
12 Then Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.”
13 The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him, 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”
15 So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. (1 Kings 12:12-15).
Rehoboam followed the advise of his younger peers, couching his threats in the strongest possible terms.
“What my Father did”
“What I will do”
Made your yoke heavy
Add to your yoke
Disciplined you with whips
Discipline you with scorpions
Rehoboam’s decision was not mere happenstance. It was a turn of events from the Lord (12:15). Although both Rehoboam and his advisors all had “free will,” it was the Lord who brought this decision about. This was not merely a case of God’s foreknowledge. The author tells us that these events came from the Lord.
17 But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. (1 Kings 12:16-17).
The response of
Although the intent of rebellion was now present, the actual occasion for this rebellion came about when the next call for forced labor arose.
18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all
20 It came about when all
Rehoboam attempted to test the resolve of the northern tribes by sending his taskmaster with a call to forced labor. The man was taken and executed in an act of overt rebellion.
This apparently took place while King Rehoboam was still in the area. When his royal taskmaster was executed, he fled the area. The rest of the tribes now took this opportunity to acclaim Jeroboam as their new king.
This rebellion did not take place in a vacuum. There were other factors which were already at work in bringing it about. Ephraim, the tribe of Jeroboam, was particularly known for its pride and desire for ascendancy.
(1) Ephraim had complained to Joshua (who was also from Ephraim) about the relatively small size of its inheritance (Joshua 17:14).
Tabernacle was initially set up at Shiloh within the
(3) When Gideon defeated the Midianites, Ephraim complained that they had not been invited to participate in the victory (Judges 8:1).
(4) Ephraim complained against Jephthah for not including them when he fought against the Ammonites (Judges 12:1). The truth was that they had been asked and had refused.
CALL TO ARMS
Now when Rehoboam had come to
Rehoboam set out to restore
the union of
This brings up a
question. Why did Benjamin side with
Israelite would fight
Israelite. Cousins and uncles would soon
be at war.
CALL TO PEACE
22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin and to the rest of the people, saying, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”’” So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord. (1 Kings 12:22-24).
This is the first an only
mention of Shemaiah in the book of Kings, although
there are others with the same name. He
is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles where he prophesied to Rehoboam of judgment
Shemaiah’s message was simple: Don’t go to war against your relatives because it is the Lord who brought about the divided nation. Because of his message, war was averted.
THE NORTHERN KINGDOM
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. (1 Kings 12:25).
Shechem was already an ancient city, nearly a thousand years old dating back before the days of Jacob.
Jeroboam built up this city
and made it his initial capital. Later
he built a secondary palace at Penuel, the place
where Jacob had wrestled with the angel on the
JEROBOAM’S RELIGIOUS “REFORM”
26 Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David.
27 “If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.”
29 He set one in
Jeroboam was now the king of
This state of affairs would
give Rehoboam ample opportunity to wage a propaganda campaign which could
ultimately result in Jeroboam being removed and the Kingdom being
reunited. And so, Jeroboam came up with
an alternative plan of worship. It was a
plan which appealed to convenience. The
plan was for two centers of worship to be set up within the
was the place where Jacob had his vision of a ladder reaching to heaven
(Genesis 28:11-19). It was located a
mere 12 miles north of
tribe of Dan had originally been given an allotment of land between Judah, Ephraim
and Benjamin. This had proven to be
uncomfortably close to the Philistines and in the days of the judges they
migrated northward to the area north of the Sea of Galilee on the slopes of
Convenience is the byword of
THE SINS BROUGHT ABOUT BY JEROBOAM
30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.
31 And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.
32 Jeroboam instituted a feast
in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is
in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to
the calves which he had made. And he
33 Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense. (1 Kings 12:30-33).
The writer of Kings now outlines the various sins which Jeroboam’s religious reforms brought about.
1. The Sin of Worshiping in the Wrong Places.
But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God shall choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. (Deuteronomy 12:5).
Lord had ordained that He was to be worshiped in the
2. The Sin of Ordaining an Alternate Priesthood.
had instituted the Levitical Priesthood. Since they were committed to the continuing
program of worship at the
3. The Sin of Alternate Feast Days.
The Lord had dictated certain feasts which His people were to observe. Jeroboam established alternate days of worship and feasting.
The Lord’s Mandate
The Feast of Tabernacles on the 15th day of the 7th month.
A feast like the one in
It is perhaps only coincidental that Jeroboam’s feast day falls on or around our modern Halloween. One possible reason for the later feast was to accommodate a later harvest for those who lived further north.
4. The Sin of Idolatry.
32 says that Jeroboam caused to have made several graven calves. He likely sold this idea to his fellow
Israelites by suggesting that they were following in the example of Aaron who
had molded a similar calf when the Israelites were in the Sinai wilderness. Another possibility is that these calves were
fashioned to replace the great cherubim in the
There is a lesson here. It is that God is the One who determines how He is to be worshiped. We are not at liberty to set up our own theology, our own churches or our own forms of worship.
of the most insightful movies to come out of
This naturally brings us to another question. If we are not free to leave on our own and to worship God in any way we desire, what shall we say to the Protestant Reformers who departed from the Roman Catholic Church?
In answer, let me point out that the Reformers did not leave the Roman Church as a matter of convenience, but rather as a matter of principle due to their correct perception that the Roman Church had long since departed from some of the major principles of true faith.
The same should be true of us. We ought not to leave a local church for some small reason. Rather we should commit ourselves to the church wherein the Lord has placed us.