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Israelite Monarchy - The Division Of Israel
by Wayne Blank
"Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. Every one of them brought his present, articles of silver and gold, garments, myrrh, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year." (1 Kings 10:23-25 RSV)
In his later years however, Solomon became corrupt.
"And The Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from The Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what The Lord commanded. Therefore The Lord said to Solomon, "Since this has been your mind and you have not kept My Covenant and My Statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David My servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." (1 Kings 11:9-13 RSV)
I Have Made You; I Can Break You
Solomon's apostasy was a tragedy, not only for Solomon personally, but for all of Israel. As stated above (and from above), The Lord declared the end to the united kingdom because it was no longer worthy of the blessings and success that it was being given. The Lord's purpose for Israel would nevertheless go on, "However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David My servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." The people of Judah would be allowed to maintain their lawful claim upon Judea and Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah.
As also stated by The Lord, the division of the kingdom would not take place during Solomon's reign. It would happen to his son, an arrogant young fool named Rehoboam.
"And the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father; and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead." (1 Kings 11:42-43 RSV)
After Solomon died, the people of Israel asked the new king to reduce their heavy taxation burden that Solomon had imposed upon them. It was actually an ultimatum:
"Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you." (1 Kings 12:4 RSV)
Rehoboam's foolishness and arrogance was made evident by his blustering answer to the people of Israel:
"And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel which the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." (1 Kings 12:13-14 RSV)
The Lord actually used the politically incompetent Rehoboam, just as he naturally was (as The Lord has used other swaggering misfits like Rehoboam through history for the same purpose) to bring about the destruction that The Lord declared would come if the people became corrupt in His Name.
"So the king did not hearken to the people; for it was a turn of affairs brought about by The Lord that he might fulfill his word, which The Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. And when all Israel saw that the king did not hearken to them, the people answered the king, "What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David." So Israel departed to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah." (1 Kings 12:15-17 RSV)
From that point, Israel became two separate kingdoms, the northern kingdom of "Israel" (the northern 10 tribes) with their capital up in Samaria and the southern kingdom of "Judah" (composed of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, with part of Levi) with their capital in Jerusalem. The Israelite monarchy was then also divided into two branches.
Studies in this series: