The Kingdom Splits
1 Kings 11.29-33, 12.1-20
(Christian Standard Bible)
During that time, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met Jeroboam on the road as Jeroboam came out of Jerusalem. Now, Ahijah had wrapped himself with a new cloak, and the two of them were alone in the open field.
Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak he had on, tore it into twelve pieces, and said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD God of Israel says: ‘I am about to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand. I will give you ten tribes, but one tribe will remain his for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city I chose out of all the tribes of Israel.
For they have abandoned me; they have bowed down to Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians, to Chemosh, the god of Moab, and to Milcom, the god of the Ammonites. They have not walked in my ways to do what is right in my sight and to carry out my statutes and my judgments as his father David did.
1 Kings 12.1–20
Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard about it, he stayed in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon’s presence. Jeroboam stayed in Egypt,
But they summoned him, and Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam: “Your father made our yoke harsh. You, therefore, lighten your father’s harsh service and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
Rehoboam replied, “Go away for three days and then return to me.” So, the people left. Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon when he was alive, asking, “How do you advise me to respond to this people?” They replied, “Today if you will be a servant to this people and serve them, and if you respond to them by speaking kind words to them, they will be your servants forever.”
But he rejected the advice of the elders who had advised him and consulted with the young men who had grown up with him and attended him. He asked them, “What message do you advise that we send back to this people who said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” The young men who had grown up with him told him, “This is what you should say to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you, make it lighter on us! ’
This is what you should tell them: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist! Although my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with barbed whips.’”
So, Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had ordered: “Return to me on the third day.” Then the king answered the people harshly. He rejected the advice the elders had given him and spoke to them according to the young men’s advice: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with barbed whips.”
The king did not listen to the people, because this turn of events came from the LORD to carry out his word, which the LORD had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat.
When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people answered him: What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. Israel, return to your tents. David, now look after your own house!
So, Israel went to their tents, but Rehoboam reigned over the Israelites living in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of forced labour, but all Israel stoned him to death.
King Rehoboam managed to get into the chariot and flee to Jerusalem. Israel is still in rebellion against the house of David today. When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they summoned him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. No one followed the house of David except the tribe of Judah alone.
We now reflect upon the story of Solomon. We will ask, should Solomon’s kingship serve as a lesson to us today.
Firstly, we must ask was Solomon a good or bad king? Some would say yes, he was a good king. He gained riches to pass on to his son Rehoboam. The burden of a heavy yoke on his people made life hard for them, whilst his riches mounted. Does this make Solomon a bad king? Yes, he thought of himself before others, not following Gods word.
1 Kings, Chapter 11 starts by briefly discussing Solomon’s obsessions, his love of many women, born of many foreign alliances. Solomon defied Gods word even though he most likely knew of such bans. The distraction of which turned Solomon’s heart away from God.
Solomon’s actions proved to be a learning curve for his son Rehaboam. He would follow in his fathers’ footsteps, ruling with a heavy hand, having little respect for those who served him. When Rehaboam sought the guidance of elders, he was told that it would be in his best interests to respond in a thoughtful manner and they will serve you. A practice which we preach whole heartedly today.
However, Rehaboam took the advice of youngsters who told him to discipline the peoples and make their yoke harder. A practice which we have come to realise does not yield a positive response.
Solomon’s sinful actions eventually contributed to the division of a nation. The knowledge he passed on to his son devoid of the need to consider actions. When God gives gifts to people, he allows them to choose whether to use them or not.
Every Christian can either use or not the gift of the Holy Spirit. Solomon’s example should serve as instruction for us, God’s people, to not negotiate with the ways God has revealed, but to follow his word; be a ruler of the people but allow them to flourish; have power, but not manipulate.
Desires for Kingship never diminish, there are wars throughout our world, peoples and nations are divided, quests for power are evident within the home, to the higher realms of business, to the Kings, Queens, and rulers of nations.
While most of the Kings in the teachings of the bible were great, some were not. The actions of today’s leaders may be seen just the same way.
Just as in Solomon’s time, today we face adversity, often the results of Kingship. Yet, if we listen to God’s teachings and accept his ways, then all adversity created by dominant kingship can be overcome.
If we accept the grace of God, then the path would no doubt lead to a more peaceful existence where societies live together, not become divided as they did in the times of Rehaboam.
Women would not be sought as possessions, but appreciated, and power would be a natural occurrence, not created through want.
Little has changed through the centuries. The core of society today still encompasses the ideals of those before us, the idea of kingship and the use of power over subjects remains fused into society. We must, as Christians, learn from the actions of Solomon, we must resist desires. We must remember the cost to others, when deciding our actions. We must not use wealth and power as a weapon over others but use the gift of power to provide for all.
Within our nations there is always a desire to be king, or ruler, yet there is only one King, our King, God.
Some would say that Jesus is our King, yet Jesus is the word made flesh. God is the creator, all things come from him and all things belong to him.
The Lord’s Prayer and the Grace.