During his rule (1015-975 BC), Solomon condemns thousands of innocent Israelites to hard labor first to build the Temple of Yahweh and then to construct a palace for himself. When he dies, the people of Israel tell Rehoboam his son that they will serve him only if he lightens their load (1 Kings 12:4). When Rehoboam consults advisors to his father, they encourage him to do this. When he asks his friends, they tell him to stay tough. Contrary to both, Rehoboam tells the Israelites he will impose his will on them by making their load heavier than they ever imagined. The Israelites abandon him and make a man named Jeroboam their king. Only the people of Judah and Benjamin remain loyal to Rehoboam (vs. 16-24).
Jeroboam, new king of the reconstituted Kingdom of Israel, does not think it prudent for his subjects to continue to worship Yahweh at the temple in Jerusalem. He decides to construct two temples for Yahweh in Israel: one in Bethel, at the southern end of his kingdom; the other in Dan, at its northern end. This way his subjects may continue to worship Yahweh but right at home. By taking this step, however, Jeroboam subordinates the right worship of Yahweh, as established by the word of Yahweh himself, to his perceived political needs. In other words, he makes Jupiter, false god of politics, more important than Yahweh for himself and his kingdom (vs. 26-33). All the kings of Israel after him will do the same as they repeat what became known as the sin of Jeroboam. Only after Israel’s destruction for chronic disloyalty will Yahweh’s people learn that Jupiter is unreliable.
After Rehoboam, son of Solomon, rules for seventeen years, he dies (958) and his son Abijam rules in his place (14:21, 31), though for a mere three years before his death (15:1-2). What is true of Abijam remains typical of subsequent kings of Judah: And he walked in all the sins that his father [Rehoboam] did before him and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his [grand]father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake the LORD his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem, because David did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn aside from anything that he commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite (15:3-6).
Unknown at the time, the year 975 proves to be a turning point in the history of Israel. Instead of one people united in their devotion to Yahweh, the northern Kingdom of Israel and southern Kingdom of Judah become political rivals and sometimes bitter enemies. Anyone dreaming at the time that the lost unity of the united kingdom would be restored was doomed to disappointment. To the complete surprise of everyone but Yahweh’s prophets, both kingdoms eventually disappear from history: the northern kingdom, permanently; the southern kingdom, only to be entirely reconstituted on an entirely different basis after a painful exile. Even Yahweh’s promise to David to always have a son on the throne of Israel suffers eclipse for centuries until brought to light again and permanently by Jesus Christ.
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