Israel and Judah: A Divided Kingdom (Proverbs 31; 1 Kings 12) – A bonus devotional.

Scripture reading – Proverbs 31, 1 Kings 12

This is the second of a two devotionals from today’s Scripture reading, and is a bonus devotional sent only to those who have subscribed and are following (To become a regular subscriber, and have bonus devotionals sent to you, please enter your email address in the box to the right of this devotional, and click on “Follow”).

While my earlier devotional was dedicated to the introductory verses of Proverbs 31, this devotional returns to our study of 1st Kings, with the focus upon 1 Kings 12.

Three men had reigned as king in Israel. The first was Saul, who was of the tribe of Benjamin. After Saul, the LORD chose David to reign. He was the son of Jesse, and of the tribe of Judah. Because he was a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22), the LORD established a lasting covenant with David and his lineage, and one that will ultimately be fulfilled when Jesus Christ returns to reign as the “King of kings and LORD of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

1 Kings 12 – The Tumultuous Reign of Rehoboam

King Solomon was dead (11:43), and “Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead” (11:43), beginning a new and tragic phase in Israel’s history. The young king stepped into the role his father had served for forty years (11:42), and Rehoboam was soon tested. Tragically, rather than humble himself and seek the LORD for wisdom, Rehoboam’s heart was lifted up with pride and he failed the opportunity to solidify his reign as king in Israel.

The son of Solomon was crowned king in Shechem, a city that held a significant place in Israel’s history. Shechem was the first place Abraham had camped when he came into the Promised Land (Genesis 12:6-7). Joshua had addressed all Israel in Shechem before his death (Joshua 24:1-15), and it was there where the bones of Joseph had been interned (Joshua 24:32).

Jeroboam Returned to Israel (12:2-5)

Jeroboam, had fled to Egypt during Solomon’s reign, for the king had recognized he was a threat to his crown and the peace of Israel (11:26-40). Soon after he heard the news that Solomon was dead (12:2), men in Israel “sent and called Jeroboam” to return to Israel (12:3).

Emboldened by Solomon’s death, Jeroboam became the opposing voice of the northern ten tribes in Israel (12:3). Speaking on behalf of the people, he challenged the king, and demanded the burdens placed upon the people by Solomon be decreased (probably taxes and forced labor on the king’s building projects, 12:4).

The Counsel of Rehoboam’s Advisors (12:6-11)

Rehoboam requested three days to consider his response (12:5). The young king appealed first to the men that had served his father as Solomon’s advisors. Older and experienced, they counseled the young king to approach the people like a servant with humility (12:6-7). They advised him to speak kindly to the people, and the people would become his “servants for ever” (12:7).

Foolishly, Rehoboam rejected the counsel of his elders (12:8), and consulted instead with his peers, “young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him” (12:8). Revealing their youthful zeal, and courting the king’s favor, his peers mocked the people’s request for lighter burdens, and urged Rehoboam to approach the people with pride and disdain (12:9-10). Urging the king to deny the demands of the people, he set the stage for the proverb to be fulfilled: Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

On the third day, Jeroboam and the people came before the king at the appointed time (12:12), and he followed the advice of his peers. Boasting, and speaking harshly to the people, Rehoboam provoked the children of Israel to rebel (12:13-14).

A Foolish King, and a Lesson in God’s Sovereignty (12:15-24)

We read, “15Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat” (12:15). [Note – 1 Kings 11:29-33]

King Rehoboam’s words and actions, though contrary to the counsel of his elders, accomplished the LORD’S purpose. God had foretold how Solomon’s sins would be the cause for Israel to become a divided nation during his son’s reign (11:34-40). And so that purpose was fulfilled (12:15).

The children of Israel rejected Rehoboam as king (12:16, 19), and when his sent a tax collector to demand tribute, they killed him. Hearing what was done, Rehoboam fled to Jerusalem for safety (12:18-19), and the children of Israel (the northern ten tribes) “made [Jeroboam] king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only…with the tribe of Benjamin” (12:20-21).

Rehoboam raised up an army of 180,000 men from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin (12:21), and planned to gone to war against his brethren in the north.  God, however, sent a prophet to demand that there be no war in Israel (12:22-24).

Israel (the northern ten tribes) Became an Idolatrous People (12:25-33)

Knowing the worship of the LORD, and the annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Temple might give cause for the people to reunite the nation, Jeroboam, feared for his life (12:25-27). Taking counsel from those who had joined his rebellion (12:28), he determined to establish a religion with his own gods (12:25-27). Fashioning his idols after the likeness of heathen gods, Jeroboam “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” (12:28).

Never confessing the true motive for establishing idolatry in Israel, Jeroboam excused his wickedness reasoning that Jerusalem was “too much,” or too far away for the people (12:28). He lied, altered Israel’s history, and attributed his golden calves as the gods that had delivered the Hebrew children out of Egypt (12:28). Rather than Jerusalem and the Temple, Jeroboam ordained two cities to serve as places of worship, Bethel and Dan (12:29-30).

Because the priests and Levites would have refused to participate in the idolatry of Israel, Jeroboam chose men to be priests who were “of the lowest of the people” (12:31). He established feast days to replace those the LORD had ordained (12:32-33). It appears Jeroboam ordained himself to sacrifice to his gods, for we read, “he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (12:33).

Closing thoughts – Consider how quickly the children of Israel departed into idolatry. They rejected God, His Law and Commandments. They accepted Jeroboam’s religious piety, all the while rejecting the One True God whose Temple was in Jerusalem. Finally, they ordained spiritual leaders like themselves, who were “of the lowest of the people” (12:31).

What about those to whom you look for spiritual leadership?

Have you embraced pastors and teachers “of the lowest of the people” (12:31)?

Copyright © 2021 – Travis D. Smith