ELECTION YEAR 930 BC: Rehoboam versus Jeroboam
King David expanded Israel's influence in the Levant, subduing enemies and expanding Israel's borders from Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea to the Euphrates River (1 Kgs 5:1). King David won the wars, and after his death his son, King Solomon, maintained the peace. Solomon assured Israel's peaceful relations with her Gentile neighbors by expanding the standing, professional army and adding a force of chariots and cavalry (1 Kgs 10:26). He established a royal navy (1 Kgs 9:26-27), erected fortifications and strengthened the existing fortification of Israelites towns and frontier outposts (1 Kgs 9:15, 17-18). Solomon cemented diplomatic treaties with Israel's powerful neighbors by marrying the Gentile princesses of the foreign nations (1 Kgs 11:1-2). He built a Temple for Yahweh and a palace for himself (2 Chr 1:18) . Solomon inaugurated a Golden Age of the Israelite monarchy, but all of this success came at a cost. Solomon raised a levy throughout the nation for forced labor to build the Temple and his other building projects (1Kg 5:27 ). It took seven years to build the Temple of Yahweh that was intended to be the center of liturgical worship for the covenant people and the light of God to the Gentile nations (1 Kgs 6:37-38). The people of Israel experienced peace and prosperity, but they paid for that peace and prosperity through high taxes and forced labor (1 Kgs 4:24-5:1).
All of David's successes were the result of his desire to submit himself to God's will for his life and to God's plan for Israel as a holy nation. Even in his failures, David submitted himself to the Lord and accepted God's judgments. On his deathbed David counseled his son to submit himself to Yahweh and to remain faithful to the covenant God formed with the House of David (2 Sam 7:16; 23:5). God also counseled Solomon, telling the young king: For your part, if you walk before me in innocence of heart and in honesty, like your father David, if you do everything that I command and keep my laws and my ordinances, I shall make your royal throne secure over Israel for ever, as I promised your father David when I said, 'You will never lack for a man on the throne of Israel" (1 Kgs 9:4-5). But these promised blessings were followed by a warning that disobedience to the laws and ordnances of the Sinai Covenant would result in disaster for Solomon's descendants and for Israel (1 Kgs 9:6-9). Unfortunately, Solomon did not have his father's deep love and commitment to Yahweh. He broke every law limiting the authority of the Kings of Israel (Dt 17:14-20; 1 Kgs 10:14-11:13), and he offered sacrifices to the false gods of his pagan wives (1 Kgs 11:1-8). The result was the withdrawal of God's protection over the House of David (1 Kgs 11:9-13).
When Solomon died, he was succeeded by his son, Rehoboam. As was the custom, the twelve tribes of Israel assembled at Shechem to ratify Rehoboam's election as Solomon's successor. Judah had already accepted Rehoboam, a Judahite like his father and grand-father, as their king, but the other tribes, led by Jeroboam of Ephraim (of the House of Joseph) had issues that they wanted to be addressed, they were tired of the tribe of Judah receiving all the benefits of a Davidic monarchy and the other tribes receiving the tax burden. They wanted change.
Jeroboam, the son of widow and a prince of the tribe of Ephraim (one of the two half-tribes of Joseph), had been a young man in Solomon's service. The attractive and energetic prince impressed the king who put the young man in charge all the forced labor of the House of Joseph. When the ambitious young prince became a threat to Solomon's throne, Solomon ordered his execution (1 Kgs 11:26, 40). But the wily Jeroboam escaped to Egypt, the land of his ancestress Asenath, the Egyptian wife of Joseph son of Israel (Gen 41:50-52). When Jeroboam heard that Solomon had died, he returned to fulfill his destiny, which was to take Israel away from the House of David (1 Kng 11:27-39). His weapon of opportunity was the high taxes imposed by the former king.
This was the background for the election year 931/930BC. The ten Northern tribes of Israel demanded that Rehoboam lower their tax burden. Led by Jeroboam the people came to Rehoboam to receive his answer. When Rehoboam son of Solomon refused, ten of the tribes of Israel (with the exception of Judah and Benjamin) abandoned the House of David and turned to Jeroboam, who promised change; he promised prosperity through tax relief. The ten tribes made Jeroboam of Ephraim their King over the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 930BC (1 Kgs 12:20).
But what the people thought was only an issue of tax relief and more money in their pocketbooks became so much more with the election of Jeroboam and the rejection of the House of David. Jeroboam realized that if the people continued to travel to Jerusalem to worship in Yahweh's Temple it would diminish his authority. Jeroboam determined that the answer to this dilemma was to promote "religious tolerance" and to re-introduce Golden Calf worship, a version of the popular Egyptian fertility cult of the Apis Bull, a form of sex based worship no one would find at the Jerusalem Temple (1 Kgs 12:26-33). Repeating the blasphemy of the Exodus rebels (Ex 32:4) he told the people: You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here is your God, Israel, who brought you out of Egypt!' (1 Kgs 12:28), and he set up two sites of Golden Calf worship, one in the north and the other in the south. When the priests and Levites condemned the worship of the Golden Calf idols, Jeroboam condemned their religious "intolerance" and expelled the priests of Yahweh, who all withdrew to the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Jeroboam established his own priesthood (2 Chr 11:13-14) and built his own Temple to Yahweh on Mt. Gerizim in opposition to the Jerusalem Temple: Such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth (1 Kgs 13:34).
However, Jeroboam's death did not result in Israel's repentance. The evil was established in the next generation, and the tribes of the Northern Kingdom drifted farther and farther away from God. They sold their consciences for more money in their pockets, and even though most of the Israelites probably promised themselves the practices that were an abomination to Yahweh would not touch them, they could not hold themselves aloof from the contamination. Golden Calf worship, a false Temple, and sacrifice to idols were only preludes to greater evils like child sacrifice. Among the Israelites there were those who began to sacrifice their children (2 Kng 17:17) to false gods as an offering to ensure the desired prosperity and social status of their parents. God sent His prophets to condemn the Israelites' apostasy and their vicious abuse of the innocent, and He sent redemptive judgments like droughts (1 Kng 17:1) to call the people to repentance, but to no avail.
After nine successive dynasties of Northern Kingdom Israelite kings who continued to lead the people in sinful practices, God's patience had come to an end. Surely, the blood of all the innocence murdered children must have cried out to God like the blood of Abel (Gen 4:10; Lev 18:21; Dt 18:10)'crying out for justice. God withdrew His protection and allowed the Assyrians to conquer the Northern Kingdom of Israel in 722BC. The Assyrians depopulated and disbursed the ten tribes of Israel into the Gentile lands to the East (2 Kng 17:1-6). Israel wanted to be like the Gentile nations, and now she was destroyed and assimilated by them: This happened because the Israelites had sinned against Yahweh their God who had brought them out of Egypt, out of the grip of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods, they followed the practices of the nations which Yahweh had dispossessed for them. The Israelites spoke slightingly of Yahweh their God. [..]. They rejected all the commandments of Yahweh their God and cast themselves metal idols, two calves; they made themselves sacred poles, they worshipped the whole array of heaven, and they served Baal. They caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire of sacrifice, also they practiced divination and sorcery, they sold themselves to doing what displeases Yahweh, provoking his anger. Because of which, Yahweh became enraged with Israel and thrust them away from him. The tribe of Judah was the only one left ( 2 Kgs 17:7-9, 16-18).
The election of 930BC was a covenant ordeal for the nation of Israel. They faced the choice between following the commands and promises of God or the choice to follow the promises of a secular leader. The covenant people failed the test, choosing what seemed to them a greater good in economic prosperity over obedience to the commands of God and what was the will of God for their lives. In 722BC the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom were disbursed into the Gentile world, and the ancient nation of Israel ceased to exist.
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.