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When we get into 1 Kings, in the Old Testament, we really begin to get into the thick of the history with the tribes of Israel and even the beginnings of the scattering of Israel. The Savior taught that every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation. This is what happened to the kingdom of Israel after Solomon's Death.
Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba, is perhaps the most difficult of Israel's kings to understand. On one hand, he was the paradigm of the wise ruler who built the temple of the Lord and took the kingdom of Israel to new heights economically. On the other, he sowed the seeds for the disintegration of Israel and became involved in the worship of foreign gods, "which thing," we are told in the Book of Mormon, "was abominable" before the Lord (Jacob 2:24), leading one scholar to aptly refer to him as "the wisest of fools."
After Solomon's death, long-standing jealousies, antagonisms, and tensions between Judah and Israel (the northern tribes) erupted violently when rebellion against Rehoboam, Solomon's only known child and successor shattered the unity of the Israelite kingdom. The tensions had been aggravated in Solomon's later years by heavy taxation and forced labor. Hence, the prophesied division of the great Davidic kingdom came to pass: "For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon. . . . I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand" (1 Kgs. 11:31, 35). The division of the kingdom was the Lord's doing.
The message is subtle but profound. God is not outside the historical process. He is the principal agent in history. He has a plan for Israel and intervenes through his prophets in the affairs of men to bring about his work and purposes. The division of the Davidic kingdom, or house of Israel, was a step preparatory to the scattering of Israel, in which Deity also took a personal role (Jer. 16:13; Ezek. 5:10; Jacob 5:8)
Part 1. The kingdom of Israel is divided 1 Kings 12:1–20
1 Kings 12:1–20. Rehoboam succeeds his father, Solomon, as king over the twelve tribes of Israel. He rejects the counsel of wise men to serve his people, seeking instead to impose greater burdens on them 12:1–15. The kingdom is divided as ten tribes revolt 12:16–19; the ten tribes retain the title kingdom of Israel, while the tribes of Judah and Benjamin remain under Rehoboam’s rule and are called the kingdom of Judah. The kingdom of Israel selects Jeroboam, a former administrator in Solomon’s kingdom, as king 12:20.
Who Was Rehoboam? Rehoboam was the only son and successor of King Solomon. 1 Kings 11:43 The Bible does not mention any other sons or daughters of Solomon. Since Rehoboams mother Naamah was an Ammonite,1 Kings 14:21 he was only half Israelite. But his mother's ancestry was Semitic since the Ammonites were descendants of Lot.
Rehoboam, traveled to Shechem to be installed as the new king. It was important for Rehoboam to go to Shechem to be formally recognized as king because Shechem was among the most ancient of the sacred towns of northern Palestine and a chief city of the northern tribes of Israel. It was at Shechem that Abraham camped when he first arrived in Canaan (Gen. 12:6). It was at Shechem that the Israelites buried the bones of Joseph when they came out of Egypt (Josh. 24:32). It was at Shechem that Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel to give them instructions and establish a special covenant between God and the people. Rehoboam recognized the need to be confirmed at this important place in order to cement northern allegiance to a united kingdom.
In this place is where he met Jeroboam, the Ephraimite adversary of Solomon and also where the northern tribes made known the conditions upon which they would accept him as king.
What changes did the Israelites want Rehoboam to make from the way his father ruled? 1 Kings 12:3–4 Before supporting him they asked for a decrease in the severe financial and labor demands that had been instituted by Solomon (1 Kgs. 12:3-19; 2 Chron. 10:3-19)
Who was Jeroboam and What Important Part Did He Play in the Division of Israel?Jeroboam was the son of Nebat 1 Kings 12:15, an Ephraimite. He was one of Solomon’s twelve superintendents and had jurisdiction over all the taxes and labors exacted from the house of Joseph 1 Kings 11:28. The prophet Ahijah had prophesied that Jeroboam would someday take over much of the Israelite nation. To illustrate his prophecy, Ahijah tore a cloak in twelve pieces, gave ten to Jeroboam, and said: “Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: but he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:” 1 Kings 11:31–32. Thus, he prophetically outlined events which would soon transpire.
How was this prophecy fulfilled? 1 Kings 12:20 The tribes of Judah and Benjamin stayed with Rehoboam who became king over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the South. His kingdom, Judah, had its capital at Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 12:19-21). The other Ten tribes followed Jeroboam who was made king over the Israelites in the North, with their first capital city at Shechem. His kingdom, which consisted of the northern ten tribes, was usually called Israel, or Ephraim. Later, Omri made Samaria its capital.
Rehoboam reacted to this secession by mobilizing an army from Judah and Benjamin to quell the rebellion, force the return of the northern territories, and preserve political unity. But the Lord, through the prophet Shemaiah, forbade him to carry out a war (1 Kgs. 12:20-24; 2 Chron. 11:1-4). When war did come a short time later, it proved to be a futile and lengthy enterprise. We are told simply that "there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days" (1 Kgs. 14:30). The division between their two kingdoms created two separate nations with separate histories from that time on. It will only be in Christ's millennial kingdom that the two will become one again (Ezek. 37:22). The kingdom of Israel was divided largely because Rehoboam chose to follow the unwise counsel of his peers (1 Kings 12:9–16).