Schism in Israel
Lesson 10 | Sabbath, 4 September 2021
“With the rending of the kingdom early in Rehoboam’s reign the glory of Israel began to depart, never again to be regained in its fullness. At times during the centuries that followed, the throne of David was occupied by men of moral worth and far-seeing judgment, and under the rulership of these sovereigns the blessings resting upon the men of Judah were extended to the surrounding nations. At times the name of Jehovah was exalted above every false god, and His law was held in reverence. From time to time mighty prophets arose to strengthen the hands of the rulers and to encourage the people to continued faithfulness. But the seeds of evil already springing up when Rehoboam ascended the throne were never to be wholly uprooted; and at times the once-favored people of God were to fall so low as to become a byword among the heathen.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 96.
High construction costs
1. After the temple was built in Jerusalem, what expensive building projects did Solomon undertake?
1 Kings 9:15. And this is the reason of the levy which king Solomon raised; for to build the house of the Lord, and his own house, and Millo, and the wall of Jerusalem, and Hazor, and Megiddo, and Gezer.
“The missionary spirit that God had implanted in the heart of Solomon and in the hearts of all true Israelites was supplanted by a spirit of commercialism. The opportunities afforded by contact with many nations were used for personal aggrandizement. Solomon sought to strengthen his position politically by building fortified cities at the gateways of commerce. He rebuilt Gezer, near Joppa, lying along the road between Egypt and Syria; Beth-horon, to the westward of Jerusalem, commanding the passes of the highway leading from the heart of Judea to Gezer and the seacoast; Megiddo, situated on the caravan road from Damascus to Egypt, and from Jerusalem to the northward; and ‘Tadmor in the wilderness’ (2 Chronicles 8:4), along the route of caravans from the east. All these cities were strongly fortified. The commercial advantages of an outlet at the head of the Red Sea were developed by the construction of ‘a navy of ships in Ezion-geber,… on the shore of the Red Sea, in the land of Edom.’ Trained sailors from Tyre, ‘with the servants of Solomon,’ manned these vessels on voyages ‘to Ophir, and fetched from thence gold,’ and ‘great plenty of almug trees, and precious stones.’ Verse 18; 1 Kings 9:26, 28; 10:11.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 71, 72.
2. Did Solomon remain fully faithful to the Lord? What prophecy was pronounced against his kingdom because of grave sins and apostasy?
1 1 Kings 11:5-11, 30, 31 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6And Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and went not fully after the Lord, as did David his father. 7Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. 8And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. 9And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice, 10And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he kept not that which the Lord commanded.11Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee,… I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant…. 30And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces:31And he said to Jeroboam, 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.
“Solomon’s course brought its sure penalty. His separation from God through communication with idolaters was his ruin. As he cast off his allegiance to God, he lost the mastery of himself. His moral efficiency was gone. His fine sensibilities became blunted, his conscience seared. He who in his early reign had displayed so much wisdom and sympathy in restoring a helpless babe to its unfortunate mother (see 1 Kings 3:16-28), fell so low as to consent to the erection of an idol to whom living children were offered as sacrifices. He who in his youth was endowed with discretion and understanding, and who in his strong manhood had been inspired to write, ‘There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death’ (Proverbs 14:12), in later years departed so far from purity as to countenance licentious, revolting rites connected with the worship of Chemosh and Ashtoreth. He who at the dedication of the temple had said to his people, ‘Let your heart therefore be perfect with the Lord our God’ (1 Kings 8:61), became himself an offender, in heart and life denying his own words. He mistook license for liberty. He tried–but at what cost!–to unite light with darkness, good with evil, purity with impurity, Christ with Belial.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 57, 58.
Heavy tax burden
3. When Rehoboam succeeded Solomon, what complaints did the people bring to him? What did they request?
1 Kings 12:3, 4. That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, 4Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
“The tribes had long suffered grievous wrongs under the oppressive measures of their former ruler. The extravagance of Solomon’s reign during his apostasy had led him to tax the people heavily and to require of them much menial service. Before going forward with the coronation of a new ruler, the leading men from among the tribes determined to ascertain whether or not it was the purpose of Solomon’s son to lessen these burdens. ‘So Jeroboam and all Israel came and spake to Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore ease thou somewhat the grievous servitude of thy father, and his heavy yoke that he put upon us, and we will serve thee.’” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 88, 89.
4. With whom did Rehoboam consult before answering the people’s request? Whose counsel did he accept, and what did he do with the wise advice that was given to him by the experienced counsellors?
1 1 Kings 12:5-8. And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed. 6And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people? 7And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever. 8But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him.
“Rehoboam… [was] the son whom Solomon chose to be his successor,…” –(Review and Herald, July 3, 1913) Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1033.
“Although Solomon had longed to prepare the mind of Rehoboam, his chosen successor, to meet with wisdom the crisis foretold by the prophet of God, he had never been able to exert a strong molding influence for good over the mind of his son, whose early training had been so grossly neglected. Rehoboam had received from his mother, an Ammonitess, the stamp of a vacillating character. At times he endeavored to serve God and was granted a measure of prosperity; but he was not steadfast, and at last he yielded to the influences for evil that had surrounded him from infancy. In the mistakes of Rehoboam’s life and in his final apostasy is revealed the fearful result of Solomon’s union with idolatrous women.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 88.
5. How contrary was the suggestion of the young counselors? What Spirit can we say was not heeded?
1 Kings12:9-11 And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? 10And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. 11And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
“Dissatisfied, Rehoboam turned to the younger men with whom he had associated during his youth and early manhood, and inquired of them, ‘What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?’ 1 Kings 12:9. The young men suggested that he deal sternly with the subjects of his kingdom and make plain to them that from the very beginning he would brook no interference with his personal wishes.
“Flattered by the prospect of exercising supreme authority, Rehoboam determined to disregard the counsel of the older men of his realm, and to make the younger men his advisers. Thus it came to pass that on the day appointed, when ‘Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam’ for a statement concerning the policy he intended to pursue, Rehoboam ‘answered the people roughly,…saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.’ Verses 12-14.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 89, 90.
Following bad advice
6. Whom did the king turn against? What answer did he give three days later when the people came back?
1 Kings 12:12-15. So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. 13And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him; 14And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 15Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lordspake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
2 Chronicles 10:15. So the king hearkened not unto the people: for the cause was of God, that the Lord might perform his word, which he spake by the hand of Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
“Had Rehoboam and his inexperienced counselors understood the divine will concerning Israel, they would have listened to the request of the people for decided reforms in the administration of the government. But in the hour of opportunity that came to them during the meeting in Shechem, they failed to reason from cause to effect, and thus forever weakened their influence over a large number of the people. Their expressed determination to perpetuate and add to the oppression introduced during Solomon’s reign was in direct conflict with God’s plan for Israel, and gave the people ample occasion to doubt the sincerity of their motives. In this unwise and unfeeling attempt to exercise power, the king and his chosen counselors revealed the pride of position and authority.”–Prophets and Kings, p. 90.
7. What serious schism arose following Rehoboam’s cruel response to the reasonable requests of the people? What was the painful result of this, and how long did it last?
1 Kings 12:16, 17. So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. 17But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.
2 Chronicles 10:19. And Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.
“The Lord did not allow Rehoboam to carry out the policy he had outlined. Among the tribes were many thousands who had become thoroughly aroused over the oppressive measures of Solomon’s reign, and these now felt that they could not do otherwise than rebel against the house of David. ‘When all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.’ Verse 16.
“The breach created by the rash speech of Rehoboam proved irreparable. Thenceforth the twelve tribes of Israel were divided, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin composing the lower or southern kingdom of Judah, under the rulership of Rehoboam; while the ten northern tribes formed and maintained a separate government, known as the kingdom of Israel, with Jeroboam as their ruler. Thus was fulfilled the prediction of the prophet concerning the rending of the kingdom. ‘The cause was from the Lord.’ Verse 15.” –Prophets and Kings, pp. 90, 91.
For additional study
“When Solomon died, between 926 and 922 BCE, the ten northern tribes refused to submit to his son, Rehoboam, and revolted. From this point on, there would be two kingdoms of Hebrews: in the north–Israel, and in the south–Judah. The Israelites formed their capital in the city of Samaria, and the Judaeans kept their capital in Jerusalem. These kingdoms remained separate states for over two hundred years.” –Jewish Virtual Library.
“The people whom God had chosen to stand as a light to the surrounding nations were turning from their Source of strength and seeking to become like the nations about them. As with Solomon, so with Rehoboam–the influence of wrong example led many astray. And as with them, so to a greater or less degree is it today with everyone who gives himself up to work evil–the influence of wrongdoing is not confined to the doer. No man liveth unto himself. None perish alone in their iniquity. Every life is a light that brightens and cheers the pathway of others, or a dark and desolating influence that tends toward despair and ruin. We lead others either upward to happiness and immortal life, or downward to sorrow and eternal death. And if by our deeds we strengthen or force into activity the evil powers of those around us, we share their sin.” –Prophets and Kings, p. 94.