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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 9

January 25, 2017

A foolish leader

1 Kings 12:1-20

An Empire that took David and Solomon eighty years to build was destroyed by the injudicious actions of Rehoboam in a few days. He responded to the North’s request by favouring the mutual folly of his peers to the amassed wisdom of those who served Israel’s wisest king. The divided kingdom became a reality due to the unfaithfulness of Solomon, the senselessness of Rehoboam and Jeroboam’s political adeptness.

rehoboamIsrael as a nation was covenantally decreed to represent a united people to the world who prosper under the divine rule of God. Though there were military, economic, social and moral forces moving the twelve tribes towards a united nation, it was truly their shared redemptive history and worship of the one true God that united them. The united nation arose from the twelve tribes at war. Forces of disharmony like covenantal unfaithfulness, tribal jealousy, bureaucratic institutional favouritism, social injustice, persisting moral decay and national spiritual blindness remained a present and real danger to national unity. Under the rulership of a godly king these forces were kept at bay. Covenantal protection, blessing and unity were ensured through the covenantal fidelity of the nation. Solomon through his own selfish greed, lustful pursuits and grandiose ambitions fulfilled Samuel’s prophetic warning (1 Sam. 8:11-18). Solomon ruled like the kingdoms Israel were redeemed from with a comparable abusive tyranny. Though various factors contributed to the division of the kingdom, the author of the Book of Kings (1 Ki. 11:9-13, 29-39) was clear that the tipping point were God’s judgement against the covenantal unfaithfulness through idolatry by Solomon.

Solomon’s unfaithfulness started by not giving adherence to the commands of Deuteronomy 17. He became a king who did “turn from the law” (Deut. 17:20 NIV) and enraged God. Solomon’s apostasy had immense consequences for all within the kingdom. The division of the kingdom was not an unforeseen and random event, but was the culmination of progressive events[i]. God as a covenant-keeping God judged Solomon’s covenantal infidelity and for sake of the Davidic covenant left a much smaller nation for Solomon’s son to rule (1 Ki. 11:9-13). Solomon’s disobedience cost his descendants the benefit of rulership over an extended united empire. God prophetically through Ahijah (1 Ki. 11:26-36) infallibly decreed the division of the nation[ii]. Although the rupture is irredeemably predetermined by God as the ultimate Judge and Lord of history, Rehoboam’s actions were the catalyst to God’s prophetically decreed judgement upon the kingdom (1 Ki. 12:5)[iii]. Even Josephus an apologist for Rehoboam described him as a boastful and foolish man who would not avail himself of wise counsel[iv]. His imprudent actions directly contributed to the empire built by his father and grandfather tearing into two smaller and weaker kingdoms[v].

The author of Chronicles depicted Rehoboam as an incompetent casualty of events that he was ill-suited to handle. While the Books of Kings showed that the events that overwhelmed him were a progression of incidents which climaxed at Shechem[vi]. Rehoboam inherited an unstable empire which could only maintain past glories by enforcing and increasing heavy taxes and the unpopular burden of enforced labour[vii]. History remembers Rehoboam as a king who was engrossed with educing political and military solidification[viii]. Rehoboam when he travelled to Shechem was between a downloadrock and a hard place. Solomon left his son an empire with a greatly depleted treasury. Egypt adopted a more hostile stance towards Israel in the latter years of Solomon’s reign. In light of Egypt’s aggression the South’s military defences were insufficient. If Rehoboam maintained or increased the burden upon the North, he risked fracturing the empire. If he reduced the burden upon the North the South would have been at risk of an Egyptian invasion[ix]. At Shechem Rehoboam sought a unilateral benefit for the tribe of Judah to the detriment of the North. The North hoped to negotiate a new arrangement with the king, which would constitute a more beneficial arrangement for them. The account of history revealed that both fears came to past. The empire splintered into two nations (1 Ki. 12:16) and Egypt invaded Judah (1 Ki. 14:25-26).

Israel always seemed to have had the privilege of assenting to the king appointed over them[x]. This was implicit in the Deuteronomic instruction given to govern the appointment of Israel’s future kings (Deut. 17:14-16). Saul was publically reaffirmed as king at Gilgal (1 Sam. 11:15), David was made king over all of Israel at Hebron (2 Sam. 5:1-3), and the people with great feasting made Solomon their king (1 Chron. 29:22). In 931 B.C. Rehoboam undertook a risk by travelling from his powerbase in Jerusalem to Shechem[xi]. Shechem was a site that Jeroboam would later choose as his capital city (1 Ki. 12:25). It was at an Ephraimite (the northern tribe of Jeroboam) stronghold where two covenant renewals occurred (Jos. 8:30-35; 24:1-27; Deut. 27:11-13), Joseph was buried (Jos. 24:1, 32), it was the allocated territory of Manasseh (Jos. 17:7), and Abimelech attempted to establish a kingdom for himself there (Jud. 9)[xii]. Rehoboam due to the oppressive reign of his father do not receive the early and pervasive support that Saul and David enjoyed[xiii]. Something that is noticeably different between Rehoboam’s attempted ascension and the coronations of Saul and David is that the tribes approached these prospective kings[xiv]. For Saul the tribes travelled to Mizpah (1 Sam. 10:17) and the Northern tribes asked David at Hebron to be their king (2 Sam. 5:1-3). However, Rehoboam is forced to travel (1 Ki. 12:1) to an opposition bastion in order to bargain for the future of his kingdom. He attends a ceremony over which he had no control[xv] in order to solicit the North’s support.

Rehoboam arrived to find that the newly returned rebel Jeroboam was the focal point of the Northern tribes’ negotiations (1 Ki. 12:2-3). It was obvious that Jeroboam was not as apprehensive of the risk Rehoboam posed to his welfare and safety as he was of his father Solomon[xvi]. Although Jeroboam fronted the Northern tribes’ request the tribes were the rehoboams_insolencetrue driving force that pressured Rehoboam to consider their request for a lightening of their load[xvii]. It was a cultural practise in ancient Mesopotamia that a new king would as part of his coronation gift his subjects with the cancelation of debt and the release of slaves[xviii]. The people demanded a lessening of Solomon’s harsh economic and social policies (1 Ki. 4:1-28; 5:13-18) which echoed Samuel’s prophetic warning of the way of the king (1 Sam. 8:11-18). The North offered loyalty and the coronation of Rehoboam in exchange for an end to Solomon’s oppressive rule (1 Ki. 12:4). It is clear that the nation has experienced a spiritual decline under Solomon’s rulership of state sponsored idolatry. The complaint is social and economic. No concern is expressed for the spiritual or moral condition of the nation. They seek the good life not the godly life[xix]. The resulted full-blown idolatry under Jeroboam after the division of the kingdom underlines this fact (1 Ki. 12:28; 2 Ki. 10:29). Rehoboam at Shechem experienced direct and formidable opposition as the heir to Solomon’s troubles. Rehoboam was ignorant of the deep seated discontent of the nation to his father’s rule[xx].

Rehoboam was wholly unprepared to immediately respond to the people’s request and asked for three days of deliberation (1 Ki. 12:5). In his ignorance he does not engage the people in order to understand their dissatisfaction with the palace. He instead turned for advice to his advisors who did not suitably warn him about the level of discontent among the people[xxi]. The choice that had to be made was between following David in seeking tribal unity or strengthening Solomon’s absolute monarchy[xxii]. He had two groups of advisors, which is described in the text as the “elders” and the “young men” (1 Ki. 12:5-10). The “elders” were the patriarchal principals who served in the advisory council of Solomon. The text called them “elders” in order to emphasis their greater maturity, acquired experience and established wisdom[xxiii] compared to Rehoboam’s contemporaries who are called “young men”. The “young men” who grew up benefiting from Solomon’s patronage and some could have been the decedents from mix-marriages with principles foreign to Israel[xxiv]. The “elders” were shaped by David’s kingdom which respected Israel’s familial and tribal heritage. They wanted to compromise and seek tribal unity (1 Ki. 12:6-7). There was more concern about the individual people groups who made up the tribes. The Davidic court ruled over a tribal social structure with interdependence between the tribes. The “young men” in contrast were the beneficiaries of Solomon’s new districts and they formed the new elite. They owe their social status to the palace and therefore their loyalty was to the king. They viewed the people as means to benefit the Palace court. To them the tribal structures were a foreign concept[xxv].

The dissimilarity in the backgrounds of Rehoboam’s advisors was reflected in the advice they gave. The “elders” operated within Solomon’s court when he instituted the policies the Northern tribes rebelled against. Having ascended to their positions during David’s reign, they urged a tempered approach that pursued Davidic harmony[xxvi]. Their appeal to Rehoboam to “speak good words” (1 Ki. 12:7 ESV) echoed Abner’s request to David (when he concluded a covenant with the North) to do “all that is good in the eyes of Israel[xxvii].  The “elders” advised Rehoboam to “be a servant”, “give them a favourable answer” and to “speak good words” (1 Ki. 12:7). They counselled that Rehoboam were to act in the interest of the people. They advocated servanthood leadership to supplant the enslavement of the people[xxviii]. Biblical leadership is not primarily about positional power or accumulated privilege, but serving God’s people through leadership. The king’s duty was to administrate God’s will to the people (Ps. 72:1-6). Furthermore, the “elders” advised Rehoboam to deviate from Solomon’s worst exploitative and authoritarian policies and lighten the load of the people. They prompted him to speak “good words”. The Hebrew term “tob” translated as “good” does not only imply friendly words, but implicated a practical benefit to the hearer. The word as used in 1 Kings 8:18 implied moral and spiritual advantage, while in 1 Kings 10:7 it indicates economic wellbeing and in 1 Kings 8:36 it is a piously lived life before God. It can be concluded that “good words” are to declare to the people that which is to the welfare of God’s purposes, gratifies God’s will and is in harmony with God[xxix].

Rehoboam then turned to the “young men” a group of contemporaries who owed 31118_000_034_05their status in society to him and their source of wealth was the palace[xxx]. These counsellors were puerile, ambitious, pompous and insecure[xxxi]. Rehoboam had an affiliation with the “young men” who displayed no knowledge of the true level of tribal displeasure in the North. Their advice rejected servant leadership but promoted placing a heavier burden of servitude upon the people in order to benefit the palace economy[xxxii]. From the text it seems that Rehoboam from the start were not committed to the advice of “the elders”. He turned to his contemporaries – the new elite with whom he shared a similar outlook. This assumption is based upon the fact that Rehoboam sided with “the youth” by asking: “How should we answer these people?” (1 Ki. 12:9). He saw himself as being part of the “young men[xxxiii]. The advice was a rejection of servanthood leadership and an endorsement of autocratic leadership. The reply they formulated was harsh, sarcastic[xxxiv] and vulgar[xxxv]. He is encouraged to not only use whips on the people but to use scorpions, a barbed whip (1 Ki. 12:11)[xxxvi]. “My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist.” (1 Ki. 12:10) was a loutish reply. The word finger does not appear in the original text. A probable reading  implies the small member which only men have. The waist or loins is the location of sexual power[xxxvii]. This phrase was the braggadocios swagger of youth who asserted that they possessed greater masculinity and virility[xxxviii]. As Richard Nelson described his actions: ”Rehoboam chooses slogans over wisdom, machismo over servanthood.[xxxix].

Rehoboam responded to the North’s request by favouring the mutual folly of his peers to the amassed wisdom of those who served Israel’s wisest king[xl]. “If Rehoboam had wished to split the kingdom, he could have found no better wedge than this blustering promise of tyranny.”[xli]. Due to his inexperience he completely underestimated the discontentment amongst the Northern tribes revealed in the fact that he was forced to flee to Jerusalem (1 Ki. 12:18). Instead of listening (1 Ki. 12:15) to the people, Rehoboam attempted to impose his position forcefully upon the people (1 Ki. 12:13). Jeroboam approached Rehoboam from a position of strength based upon personal power as recognised by the people (1 Ki. 11:27-32; 12:2, 12, 20). Rehoboam attempted to rule through positional coercion instead of his own gifting, capability or standing amongst the Northern tribes[xlii]. The Book of Chronicles (2 Chron. 13:5-7) depicted Jeroboam as having taken advantage of Rehoboam’s credulousness[xliii]. Adoniram being killed, left any attempt to continue the negotiations stillborn (1 Ki. 12:18). The wealth of the North became a distant memory for the South[xliv].

An Empire that took David and Solomon eighty years to build was destroyed by the injudicious actions of their descendant in a few days. In an irony of history Solomon’s servant gains the rulership of ten tribes, while Solomon’s son who rejected servant leadership were left with two tribes[xlv]. Rehoboam did not give up on the dream of a united kingdom, but was prophetically stopped by God to use military force (1 Ki. 12:24). The divided kingdom became a reality due to the unfaithfulness of Solomon, the senselessness of Rehoboam and Jeroboam’s political adeptness. The division of the kingdom was the combination of various factors, with Rehoboam being the final catalyst. However the true reason for the division of the kingdom was the result of God’s judgement upon the rule of Solomon. The result was a permanent parting between the North and the South. The spiritual fidelity of both nations changed. The security of both new nations was weakened[xlvi]. In the end Israel lost the kingdom permanently.

End Notes

[i] (Knoppers 1990:426-427)

[ii] (House 1995:177)

[iii] (Fischer 2002:36)

[iv] (Feldman 1998:246)

[v] (Vasantharao 2003:44)

[vi] (Knoppers 1990:425)

[vii] (Fischer 2002:358)

[viii] (McKnight 2005:838)

[ix] (Brindle 1984:228)

[x] (Van Groningen 1996:n.a.)

[xi] (Keener 1993:n.a.)

[xii] (Nyirimana 210:183)

[xiii] (Knoppers 1990:434)

[xiv] (Nyirimana 210:186)

[xv] (Keener 1993:n.a.)

[xvi] (House 1995:181)

[xvii] (Nyirimana 210:186)

[xviii] (Vasantharao 2003:42)

[xix] (Berlyn 1999:51)

[xx] (McKenzie 2005:455)

[xxi] (Nyirimana 210:197)

[xxii] (McKnight 2005:839)

[xxiii] (Nyirimana 210:190)

[xxiv] (Berlyn 1999:217)

[xxv] (Halpern 1974:527-530)

[xxvi] (Nyirimana 210:197)

[xxvii] (Vasantharao 2003:43)

[xxviii] (Nyirimana 210:190)

[xxix] (Case 1988:58-59)

[xxx] (Provan 1995:n.a.)

[xxxi] (House 1995:182)

[xxxii] (Berlyn 1999:217)

[xxxiii] (Nyirimana 210:197)

[xxxiv] (Nyirimana 210:197)

[xxxv] (McKenzie 2005:839)

[xxxvi] (Keener 1993:n.a. )

[xxxvii] (Fischer 2002:358)

[xxxviii] (McKenzie 2005:452)

[xxxix] (Nelson 1987:79)

[xl] (Reardon 2007:48)

[xli] (MacLaren 2013:n.a.)

[xlii] (Case 1988:65)

[xliii] (McKenzie 2005:454)

[xliv] (McKnight 2005:839)

[xlv] (Reardon 2007:427)

[xlvi] (McKenzie 2005:455-457)

Works Cited

Berlyn, PJ. 1999. “Divided they stand: The united monarchy split in twain.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 27(4):211-221.

Brindle, W. 1984. “The Causes of the Division of Israel’s Kingdom.” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September):223-233.

Case, R. 1988. “Rehoboam: A study in failed leadership.” Presbyterion 14(1):55-77.

Feldman, LH. 1998. Studies in Josephus’ rewritten Bible. Leiden: Koln:Brill.

Fischer, S. 2002. “The Division of Israel’s Monarchy and the Political Situation of Lesotho.” Verbum et ecclesia 23:353-366.

Halpern, B. 1974. “Sectionalism and the schism.” Journal of Biblical Literature 93(4):519-532.

House, PR. 1995. The New American Commentary: 1,2 Kings. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Keener, GS. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Knoppers, GN. 1990. “Rehoboam in Chronicles: villain or victim?” Journal of Biblical Literature 109(3):423-440.

MacLaren, A. 2013. MacLaren’s commentary-expositions of Holy Scripture. Delaware: Delmarva Publications.

McKenzie, SL 2005. “History of Israel 4: Division of the Monarchy.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

McKnight, S 2005. “Rehoboam.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Nelson, RD. 1987. Fisrt and Second KIngs. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press.

Nyirimana, E. 210. “The tribal dimension in the division of the Kingdom of Israel: A contextual study of 1 Kings12:1-24 from the perspective of the struggle for national unity in Rwanda.” Doctor of Philosophy, School of religion and theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal , Pietermaritzburg.

Provan, IW. 1995. Understanding the Bible commentary series: 1 & 2 Kings. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Reardon, PH. 2007. “A royal fool.” Touchstone: A journal of Mere Christianity November:48.

Van Groningen, G. 1996. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker.

Vasantharao, C. 2003. “The division of the kingdom: It’s causes and consequences.” Indian Journal of Theology 45(1&2):41-51.

November 16, 2016
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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 8

A divided heart

1 Kings 12:1-19

Solomon was in the eyes of his Ancient Near Eastern contemporaries the ideal of a successful king  God judged the success of a king not according to their social, political or economic accomplishments but rather evaluated them based upon their covenantal fidelity to Him. He became a king who did “turn from the law”  and angered God. Solomon’s disobedience cost his descendants a united kingdom.

dividedAs we have seen in these series of blogs the fault lines of Israel’s unity receded under the reign of godly kings. Under a godly king God’s blessing would cause Israel to unite, but without God’s blessings this unity between the South and the North was unstable.  Solomon’s later reign placed even more pressure upon these existing stress points.  Heavy taxation and conscript labour placed a heavier burden upon an already delicate unity between the tribes (1 Ki. 4:27-28), 5:13-18). This is a nation that emerged from civil war and those scar-lines were not completely healed. Solomon was in the eyes of his Ancient Near Eastern contemporaries the ideal of a successful king (1 Ki. 10:1-13). God judged the success of a king not according to their social, political or economic accomplishments but rather evaluated them based upon their covenantal fidelity to Him. The author of the Book of Kings viewed the division of the Kingdom of Israel as a prophetic judgement against the unfaithfulness of Solomon (1 Ki. 11:9-13, 29-39). In this blog we will consider how the faithlessness of Solomon elicited God’s anger (1 Ki. 11:9) and judgement against the nation.

The Book of Kings clearly viewed the secession of the North as the judgment upon the 691b0df78f28af2954614fca89d99e84apostasy of Solomon. Solomon started his reign well, but by the end of his life he was gripped by his own sensuality and covetousness[i]. The very thing Solomon warned others against (Prov. 5:1-14; 7:6-27) became his own downfall (1 Ki. 4:11). Solomon’s unfaithfulness started by not giving adherence to the commands of Deuteronomy 17. It forbade the accumulation of wealth (Deut. 17:17) and Solomon accumulated great wealth (1 Ki. 10:14-25) It prohibited the collection of great numbers of horses (Deut. 17:16) and Solomon amassed a large amount of horses (1 Ki. 10:26-29). The warning of Deuteronomy (17:17) against many foreign wives, who will lead the king’s heart astray was the story of Solomon’s later days (1 Ki. 11:3-8). He became a king who did “turn from the law” (Deut. 17:20 NIV) and angered God. God appeared to Solomon twice before and warned him of the consequences of disobedience. Solomon’s disobedience cost his descendants a united kingdom. Due to Solomon’s father David, God will hold off full judgment for his lifetime. For the sake of the Davidic covenant one tribe will be left for Solomon’s son to reign over (1 Ki. 11:9-13).

42dfe5f68917bd897baf851bd67009cf.jpgGod declared that in David He found:” … man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’ (Ac. 13:22).  David replaced Saul, because of Saul’s disobedience (1 Sam. 13:12-13). However the Psalms graphically described David’s own weaknesses, anxieties, imperfections, misgivings and acts of disobedience. David describes his struggles as follows: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight …” (Ps. 51:3-4). In various respects David was akin to Saul. What distinguishes David from other kings was his willingness to repent, his dogged faith in God and his passionate desire to follow the heart of God. As such David became the role model of a godly king whose mediated rule established national covenantal faithfulness. National faithfulness released the promised covenantal blessingsii. On his deathbed David encouraged Solomon to walk in the ways of the LORD. He told Solomon that the key to success and prosperity as king was covenantal faithfulness (1 Ki. 2:3).  Solomon started his reign well. He “showed his love for the LORD by walking according to the statutes of his father David “(1 Ki. 3:3). He had the privilege to build the temple and in his prayer of dedication Solomon instituted it as a house of prayer. He underlined the importance of prayer to the national covenantal life of Israel (1 Ki. 8:30; 2 Chron. 6:21)[ii]i.

However the account of Solomon’s great start to his rulership is seeded with actions that later would lead him away from his true devotion to God. In the previous blog we looked at how Solomon’s uncontrollable lust for power, status and wealth caused him to disobey God’s instructions. Egypt was the oppressor from whom egipto_barcoGod redeemed Israel. Solomon entered into a marriage treaty with Egypt (1 Ki. 3:1; 9:24; 11:1) which was an act of extraordinary prestige in Ancient Near Eastern culture[iii]. He traded horses with Egypt (1 Ki. 4:26-28; 10:26-29) which God forbade and described as a returning to Egypt (Deut. 17:16). In biblical imagery Egypt represents a returning to or compromising with the world[iv]. The author of the Book of Kings reminds us that the building of the temple (1 Ki. 6:1) fulfils the essential purpose of the exodus, namely worshiping God at His chosen place in the promised Land (Deut. 12:1-11). Yet, this small compromise in Solomon’s heart would grow into full-blown apostasy. Solomon during his reign more and more reflected an Egyptian Pharaoh. He built store cities, chariot cities, and cavalry cities (1 Ki. 9:19; 10:26) just like Egypt. Solomon built ships on the shore of the Red Sea (1 Ki. 9:26) in order to go back to Egypt to trade. Thus instead of Israel being saved by God from the Egyptian chariots by way of the Red Sea, Solomon goes back to buy chariots [v].

Through Solomon’s enforced labour system (1 Ki. 5:13) his own people become enslaved again. Solomon became the very embodiment of Samuel’s warning that “the ways of the king” would lead to the enslavement of the people, who would then cry out to God for salvation from their own king (1 Sam. 8:10-18). In Egypt the people cried out to God because of their bondage (Ex. 2:23) under a new Pharaoh. The people later cried out for relief from the heavy burden Solomon placed upon them (1 Ki. 12:4). Just like Pharaoh (1 Ki. 8:51), Solomon oppressed, exploited and punished them with whips (1 Ki. 12:4, 10-11, 14) [vi]. Part of Solomon’s drift from full devotion to God starts in 1 Ki. 3:1-3, through Solomon looking back at Egypt[vii].  Solomon allowed the thinking of the nations around him to influence him. From having his thinking influenced he also started to follow their ways and customs[viii]. Jesus in Matthew 6:4 states that one cannot have two masters, yet Solomon did. His striving for worldly defined success by worldly means divided his heart between two masters. The personal accumulation of wealth also led him away from caring for his people[ix].

14956660_1638442139789727_9001308181917670977_n.jpgSolomon’s first step away from God was due to the fact that he “loved many foreign women” (1 Ki. 11:1). Israel was forbidden to marry foreign women (Deut. 7:3-4), due to the real and present danger they represented to covenantal faithfulness. The king was also instructed to protect his devotion to God by not having many foreign wives (Deut. 17:17). During the covenant renewal in Deuteronomy (6:5; 10:12,20; 11:1,22; 13:4; 30:20) Israel was instructed to: ”Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut. 6:5). Jesus reiterated that this is the greatest command in all of Scripture (Mat. 22:34-40; Mark 12:29-30; Luke 10:25-37). The phrases with all of your “heart”, “soul” and “strength” emphasise that the whole being and life are to be wholeheartedly devoted to God[x]. Nonetheless Solomon is described as having a divided heart, instead of being stanchly loyal to God Solomon loved and held fast to many women (1 Ki. 11:4)[xi]. Solomon prayed that the people’s “…hearts must be fully committed to the LORD our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” (1 Ki. 8:61). Yet his heart was divided and not totally yielded to God. Solomon did not reject God, but his heart was not solely devoted to God. He started worshipping God alongside other gods (1 Ki. 9:25)[xii]. Solomon’s divided heart caused him to break covenant with God.

Solomon’s idolatry was not all-out idolatry in the beginning. It started with his sensual love for his wives that consumed him more than the required wholehearted love for God. “His love for spiritual values was replaced by a love for physical pleasures and material wealth, and gradually his heart turned from the Lord.[xiii] In his letter James warned the church that a double-minded or a person who is “facing-both-ways[xiv]  is unstable in all his ways (Jas. 1:8). Solomon’s love for his foreign wives caused him to allow them to practise their idolatrous worship of their own gods. It is not recorded in the text that any of Solomon’s wives become Jewish proselytes or converted to the Jewish worship of God. It seems that all of them remained pagan and demanded that temples be built for their deities (1 Ki. 11:7-8)[xv]. Solomon started to worship these gods with his wives (1 Ki. 8:25; 11:8) and thus broke covenant with God who demanded that there were to be “no other gods before” Him (Ex. 20:3-6). The unstableness of Solomon’s way is shown in the fact that his polytheism does not make sense in his own Ancient Near Eastern culture. As a powerful king who ruled conquered territories, the gods of those territories would have been viewed as been vanquished by Solomon’s more powerful God. Nevertheless Solomon stoops low by worshiping that which even his own culture viewed as powerless, compared to the worship of the conquering LORD[xvi].

Of all covenantal unfaithfulness, idolatry is viewed as very serious since it demolishes the very basis of Israel’s covenantal relationship with God. The faithful exclusive worship of God is the foundation of this covenant. In the past (Ex. 32-34; Nu. 20 and throughout the book of Judges) God acted immediately, with enflamed righteousness and ultimately redemptively against acts of idolatry[xvii]. Consequently God became angry with Solomon (1 Ki. 11:9). Moses stated that God would establish a place where He would be worshiped (Ex. 20:24; Lev. 17:3-9; Deut. 12:5). God outlawed all other high places, since it would contaminate the true worship of God with the worship of other deities. Early on it is stated that Solomon continued the practise of worshiping at the high places (1 Ki. 3:3), alongside the official worship of God at the temple (1 Ki. 9:25). Solomon in his old age went further and built specific places of worship for these foreign deities (1 Ki. 11:7-8) and solomons-idolatryworshiped there. The specific deities mentioned are Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians (1 Ki. 11:5), Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites (1 Ki. 11:5), and Chemosh the god of Moab (1 Ki. 11:7). Ashtoreth a Canaanite fertility goddess the consort of Baal [xviii] had in the past ensnared Israel (Jdg. 2:13). Her worship included legalised prostitution[xix], where both male and female prostitutes served at the temple (1 Ki. 14:24; 15:12; 22:46). Molech was an Ammonite astral deity (Zeph. 1:5) who was worship through child sacrifice (Lev. 18:21, 20:2-5; 2 Ki 23:10; Jer. 32:35), while Chemosh was a Moabite astral god who was their divine warrior[xx]. Solomon further according to the text worshiped other unnamed gods as well (1 Ki. 11:8). His actions legitimised polytheistic worship within the kingdom which had a long lasting influence upon the Judean kingdom (2 Ki. 23:13)[xxi]. This behaviour made a travesty of the temple amongst all the flourishing high places[xxii] .

David lived a life of devotion and whole hearted passion for God. In contrast Solomon lived a compromised life due to his divided heart[xxiii]. “So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.” (1 Ki. 11:6). Solomon advised: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Pro 4:23). However he did not follow his own advice and allowed his heart to drift from God. God was not impressed by his accumulated wealth, acclaimed prestige and arresting might. These things may impress man, but God looks at the heart of man (1 Sam. 16:7). The LORD pronounced His love for Solomon by specially naming him “Jedidiah” (2 Sam. 12:24-25) at his birth[xxiv]. solomon-dedicating-the-templeGod twice personally spoke to Solomon about covenantal devotion (1 Ki. 3:5; 9:2). God now angry with Solomon addressed him for a third time directly about his unfaithfulness (1 Ki. 11:9-13). Though Solomon was unfaithful, God proves Himself to be a covenant-keeping and a faithful God. Solomon’s unrepentant idolatry is the cause for the God sanctioned division of the kingdom, which led to national decay and finally ended in the Babylonian exile[xxv]. Due to David’s faithfulness the division would not occur during the lifetime of Solomon and the whole kingdom would not be teared from the house of David (1 Ki. 11:13). The promise of the eternal Davidic kingdom would be fulfilled in the messianic Kingdom of Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32-33, 69; Acts 2:29-36; Ps. 89:34-37). Solomon’s unfaithfulness is in sharp contrast to God’s faithfulness (Ps. 89:1-4; Lam. 3:22-23). As Paul wrote to Timothy: “if we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13).

End Notes

[i] (Hill 2005:450)
[ii] (Hill 2005:450)
[iii] (Keener 1993:n.a.)
[iv] (Wiersbe 2002:98)
[v] (Yong Yu 2011:31)
[vi] (Yong Yu 2011:32)
[vii] (Wiersbe 2002:98)
[viii] (Brindle 1984:231)
[ix] (House 1995:168)
[x] (Utley n/a)
[xi] (Provan 1995:n.a.)
[xii] (Wiersbe 2002:99)
[xiii] (Wiersbe 2002:100)
[xiv] (Robertson 2000:n.a.)
[xv] (Brindle 1984:232)
[xvi] (House 1995:167)
[xvii] (House 1995:168)
[xviii] (Keener 1993:n.a.)
[xix] (Wiersbe 2002:99)
[xx] (Keener 1993:n.a.)
[xxi] (Handy 2005:927)
[xxii] (Brindle 1984:231)
[xxiii] (Brindle 1984:231)
[xxiv] (Wiersbe 2002:101)
[xxv] (House 1995:165)

Works Cited

Brindle, W. 1984. “The Causes of the Division of Israel’s Kingdom.” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September):223-233.
Cafferky, ME. 2010. “Honor the king. Yes, but emulate the king?” The Journal of Applied Christian Leadership Fall 2010.
Handy, LK 2005. “Solomon.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Hill, AE 2005. “History of Israel 3: United Monarchy.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
House, PR. 1995. The New American Commentary: 1,2 Kings. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Keener, GS. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Provan, IW. 1995. Understanding the Bible commentary series: 1 & 2 Kings. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
Robertson, AT. 2000. Word Pictures in the New Testament. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group.
Utley, B. n/a. “Deuteronomy 6.” Free Bible Commentary. Retrieved November 14, 2016 (http://www.freebiblecommentary.org/old_testament_studies/VOL03OT/VOL03OT_06.html).
Wiersbe, WW. 2002. Be responsible (1 Kings): Being good stewards of God’s gifts. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.
Yong Yu, J. 2011. “The retroactive re-evaluation technique with Pharaoh’s daughter and the nature of Solomon’s corruption in 1 Kings 1-12.” Tyndale Bulletin 62.

October 28, 2016
lionsden2016

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LESSONS FROM A DIVIDED KINGDOM: PART 7

The greedy bring ruin to their households

1 Kings 12:1-19

The account of Solomon’s life, records how he followed “the ways of the king” and ruled in the manner Samuel warned against. The taxation burden in Israel became greater and greater as the wasteful spending by Solomon’s palace grew greater and greater. Solomon accumulated great personal prosperity at the expense of his own people.

sheba_deminWe have discussed how Israel was to be the model of godly rulership amongst the nations of the world. 1 Kings 12 records the failure of Israel as a united kingdom. Looking at the reasons for the division of Israel into a Northern and Southern kingdom, we saw how covenantal unfaithfulness, tribal jealousy, national favouritism and Israel’s own spiritual blindness caused their loss of God’s covenantal blessings. In this blog we will consider how Solomon’s own selfishness, lusts and aspirations caused him to secure his immense fortune through abusive and repressive endeavours[i]. His reign started well by requesting God wisdom in governing God’s people. God promised Solomon that due to his request God will also grant him wealth and prestige (1 Ki. 3:10-13). The early reign of Solomon reveals that there were visible economic growth and rising wealth for his subjects (1 Ki. 4)[ii]. The account of Solomon’s life, records how he followed “the ways of the king” (1 Sam. 8:11) and ruled in the manner Samuel warned against. In fact the account of Solomon’s life never again accredited his wealth to God[iii]. The taxation burden in Israel became greater and greater as the wasteful spending by Solomon’s palace grew greater and greater[iv]. Solomon became the epitome of a successful Near Eastern ruler with a peaceable rule, great prestige, vast affluence and a large harem[v]. Solomon accumulated great personal prosperity at the expense of his own people. He enriched himself to the detriment of the whole nation of Israel[vi]. The main grievance of the northern tribes relayed to Rehoboam was the heavy burden his father placed upon the nation (1 Ki. 12:4). Solomon’s frivolous consumption was an underlying cause of the division of the kingdom.

The preacher of Ecclesiastes voices Solomon’s debased selfishness where he takes aberrant pleasure in pursuing his own fortune. He states that he gave himself whatever his eyes desired and did not deny himself any material pleasure (Eccl. 2:10). It describes Solomon’s grandiose building projects (Eccl. 2:4-9) as reflected in the historical accounts of his life (1 Ki. 7:1-12; 9:15; 2 Chron. 8:1-6). He “made great works”, “built”, “planted” (Eccl. 2:4), “bought”, “owned”(Eccl. 2:8), “amassed” and “acquiredthe delights of the heart of man” (Eccl. 2:8). It describes how Solomon constructed great structural projects, built houses, planted vineyards, established lush gardens and constructed pools to water them (Eccl. 2:4-6). There was a frenzied accumulation of possessions in the form of slaves, herds, flocks, silver, gold, musicians, all manner of luxuries and a harem (Eccl. 2:7-10)[vii]. It is very clear from the text of Ecclesiastes that these great works, pursuit of prestige and accumulation of wealth had no altruistic motives but were purely selfish[viii]. This selfishness was reflected in the fact that the pursuit of his own pleasure was the absolute focus of all his endeavours (Eccl. 2:1-10). hoard_of_ancient_gold_coins-1Solomon himself wrote that unless God builds the house and guards it, the effort of the labourer is in vain (Ps. 127:1). However it is this shift of focus by Solomon himself, from God and his people to his own selfish lusts that sowed the seeds of division. This pivot towards himself and his own wants can be seen in the fact that the temple took seven years to build (1 Ki.  6:38), while he spend twice as long on building his own palace complex (1 Ki. 7:1). Ostentatiously his own palace (“a hundred cubits long, fifty wide and thirty high” 1 Ki. 7:2) in its dimensions greatly overshadowed the temple of God (“sixty cubits long, twenty wide and thirty high” 1 Ki. 6:2). The vanity the preacher of Ecclesiastes disapproves of is not hard work, but a vigorous and persistent pursuit of self-interest which is repressive and cruel in its selfishness[ix].

Moses gave a code of conduct for a future king to Israel (Deut. 17:15-20). This included the admonition that the king is not to be estranged in the lusts for power, status and wealth[x]. The prohibition on the king against acquiring great number of horses (Deut. 17:16) was a prohibition against a king trusting upon his military might instead of God (Ps. 20:7). It is God who is the source of Israel’s protection and redemption not military might (Deut. 20:1). Donkeys and cattle were used for transportation, while horses were almost exclusively used for the drawing of military chariots[xi]. Solomon inherited an empire mostly at peace and his excessive collection of horses represents a lust for power that is totally uncalled for. A large harem in the Near East was more than just there for the satisfaction of the king’s sexual passions. Marriage was a tool of diplomacy in the Near

East and the acquisition of many wives were political in nature. Treaties between nations would be sealed by marriage[xii]. While a large number of male members of a palace solomon_toccommunicated might and strength, an equally large harem communicated international status[xiii]. The prohibition in Deuteronomy (17:17) is against the lusting after international status removed from the covenantal responsibility to the LORD.  The last prohibited lust is the lust for wealth (Deut. 17:17), the king was not to in pride elevate himself above his covenantal brothers (Deut. 17:20). The Deuteronomic blessing is that God will abundantly bless his covenant people (Deut. 8:11-14), but that blessing does not extend to the unbridled accumulation of affluence. The amassing of riches without purpose would lead to pride, vanity and ultimately apostasy (Eccl. 2:8-11; Jer. 48:7). This condemned lust is because it is for the king himself (Deut. 17:17-19) and is not done in the interest of the people of God or in order to promote God’s interests[xiv]. We already saw in Ecclesiastes that the motive of Solomon lusting after power, status and wealth was in order to satisfy his own desires. (Eccl. 2:1-10).

solomons_wealth_and_wisdomSolomon opined that: “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” (Eccl. 5:10). His own life reflected this gluttonous desire for more and more. His yearly income was 25 tons of gold which at the current gold price (28/10/2016) would be over a billion US dollars a year. In reading 1 Kings 10:14-20, the question needs to be asked what purpose did five hundred shields made from over 1 ton of gold and an ivory throne coated with gold have? This is alongside the fact that he had himself and all of his guests drink from golden vessels[xv]. His palace consumed 3 650 oxen, 7 300 cattle, 36 500 sheep and 214 410 bushels of ground grains[xvi] a year, “as well as deer, gazelles, roebucks and choice fowl” (1 Ki. 4:22-24). The extent of Solomon’s horse trading (1 Ki.10:14-29) alone would have placed an unreasonable burden upon the nation’s resources. Israel was still mostly a rural agricultural community and to pay for the excessive consumption of Solomon’s palace would require the nation to produce exceptional crops each and every year. The palace’s excessively large harem and Solomon’s many wives had a large drain upon the national fiscus. He initiated massive building projects, expanded the military and built huge bureaucratic facilities[xvii]. Solomon’s reign created economic problems, because his government was spending more than the revenue it generated. He was forced to sell twenty northern cities and gave up trade routes in order to fund some of his expenditure (1 Ki. 9:11-13)[xviii].

dirck-van-delenSamuel warned Israel about “the ways of the king” (1 Sam. 8:11-18), which was embodied in
the reign of Solomon. The resource draining reign of Solomon forced Israelites into public service by generating positions that were primary to the benefit of the king; that is equestrians, a cavalry, commanders of the military, farmers, producers, cooks, bakers and perfumers all for the benefit of the king (1 Sam. 8:11-13). Some of the jobs were invented only for the prestige of the king, like someone whose sole duty was to run in front of the king’s chariots (1 Sam. 8:11-12). Solomon’s enforced labour of thirty thousand (1 Ki. 5:13) would have created labour shortages within Israel’s rural communities (1 Sam. 8:11,13, 16) and deny them the enjoyment of their covenantal inheritance. He placed an unbearable tax burden upon his own people (1 Sam. 8:15, 17) and nationalised for his own benefit some of the nation’s means of production (1 Sam 8:14). Samuel warned that the administration would become totalitarian and be corrupted (1 Sam. 8:15-17). He prophetically predicted that the oppression would cause the people to cry out, as happened after Solomon’s oppressive rule (1 Sam 8:18)[xix]. Solomon built abiding monuments, but his selfishness and lustful pursuits led to the division of the kingdom. The South was both the religious and governmental capital of the united Israel, though was topographically challenged and thus limited resource wise. The South needed the resources of the North. This heavy burden a resource hungry South placed upon the resources of the North strained already widening chasms within the unity of Israel[xx]. Solomon’s personal greed produced resentment and discontent with his rule. Jesus stated that trusting in the provision of His Father far exceeds the splendour generated by Solomon’s own selfish strivings (Matt. 6:28-30)[xxi].

End Notes

[i] (Brindle, 1984, p. 229)
[ii] (Wagner-Tsukamoto, 2013, p. 413)
[iii] (Carter, 1997, p. 20)
[iv] (Hill, 2005, p. 454)
[v] (Handy, 2005, p. 925)
[vi] (Brindle, 1984, p. 229)
[vii] (Enns, 2011, p. 44)
[viii] (Longman, 1997, p. 26)
[ix] (Carter, 1997, p. 22)
[x] (Block, 2005, pp. 266-268)
[xi] (Keener, 1993, p. n.a.)
[xii] (Craigie, 1976, p. n.a.)
[xiii] (Block, 2005, p. 268)
[xiv] (Keener, 1993, p. n.a.)
[xv] (Wiersbe, 2002, p. 92)
[xvi] (Handy, 2005, p. 925)
[xvii] (Van Groningen, 1996, p. n.a.)
[xviii] (Brindle, 1984, p. 230)
[xix] (McClain, 2001, p. n.a.)
[xx] (Van Groningen, 1996, p. n.a.)
[xxi] (Carter, 1997, p. 20)

Works Cited

Block, D., 2005. The burden of leadership: The Mosaic paradigm of kingship (Deut 17:14-20). Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 162.
Brindle, W., 1984. The Causes of the Division of Israel’s Kingdom. Bibliotheca Sacra, Issue July-September, pp. 223-233.
Carter, W., 1997. Solomon in all his glory: Intertextuality and Mathhew 6.29. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, Volume 65, pp. 3-25.
Craigie, P., 1976. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The book of the Deuteronomy. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co..
Enns, P., 2011. The two horizons Old Testament Commentary: Ecclesiastes. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
Handy, L., 2005. Solomon. In: B. Arnold & H. Williamson, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Hill, A., 2005. History of Israel 4: Division of the Monarchy. In: B. Arnold & H. Williamson, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Keener, G., 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Longman, T., 1997. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament: The Book of Ecclesiastes. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing.
McClain, A., 2001. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Winona Lake: BMH Books.
Van Groningen, G., 1996. Evangelical Commentary on the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker.
Wagner-Tsukamoto, 2013. State formation in the Hebrew Bible: An institutional economic perspective. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 37(4), pp. 391-422.
Wiersbe, W., 2002. Be responsible (1 Kings): Being good stewards of God’s gifts. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook.

October 3, 2016
lionsden2016

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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 6

Favouritism that breaks the great command.

1 Kings 12:1-19

Solomon’s national policies  manifestly benefited the tribe of Judah. His governmental policies of favouring a segment of society above another segment contributed to the division of the kingdom into these two segments. Solomon literally “…stripped the north to clothe the south, in an unabashed act of economic cannibalism.

013-solomon-moodyIn this series of blogs we are looking at the reasons behind the division of Israel into a Northern and Southern kingdom. In the last blog we considered how the personal jealousies of Jacob’s household warped into the tribal jealousies that contributed to the rupture of the united monarchy. In this blog we will look at how the governmental policies of Solomon favoured the interest of the South above those of the North. This sectionalism of Solomon concentrated on the development and protection of the South to the detriment of the North. Though tribal jealously and sectionalism are interrelated, it is different[i]. Sectionalism considers how the national policies segmented the nation into sectors of benefits and influence that manifestly benefited the tribe of Judah. We will consider how these governmental policies of favouring a segment of society above another segment contributed to the division of the kingdom into these two segments.  It will become clear that Solomon literally “…stripped the north to clothe the south, in an unabashed act of economic cannibalism.[ii]

Solomon inherited an extensive kingdom built upon the military successes of his father David. David during his reign conquered Syria, Philistia, Edom, Moab and Ammon[iii]. He endangered himself on the battlefield and so ensured that his kingdom enjoyed “rest from all his enemies” (2 Sam. 7:1). d61e2bb3c2ad3a07b752a718e241bebcThe kingdom inherited by Solomon was the fulfilment of the patriarchal promises God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Gen 15:5; 17:8; 22:17; 26:4; 32:12), that Israel were to be “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (1 Ki. 4:20). The nation under Solomon’s rule lived within boundaries of the covenantal Promised Land (Gen 15:18; Ex23:31; Deut. 1:7; Josh. 1:4). Solomon became king of a nation that had a substantial population, with “peace on all sides” (1 Ki. 4:24) and a populace who lived in security (1 Ki. 4:25). His subjects had productive future hopes which the text of 1 Kings’ pictures as each man having “his own vine and fig tree” (1 Ki. 4:25). At the start of Solomon’s reign his people are described as enjoying a “satisfying lifestyle[iv] where “they ate, they drank and they were happy” (1 Ki. 4:20). In addition to the covenantal territory, Solomon had provinces which consisted of the defeated states of Moab, Edom and Ammon. Vassal states like Hamath, Zobah and Philistia paid him tribute. Solomon also had diplomatic and trade partners in Egypt and Tyre (1 Ki. 3:1; 5:1)[v]. The new king did not have military struggles to overcome, but instead had to institute a peacetime administrative organisation that applied itself to international diplomacy, international trade and nation building[vi].

Solomon therefore became king of an empire where the territorial expansion occurred during the reign of his father. The recorded undertakings of Solomon’s empire building consisted of administrating and maintaining the conquered territories[vii]. Egypt was a spent force during the early reign of Solomon[viii]. A powerful Solomon was able through a marriage treaty (1 Ki. 3:1) with Pharaoh to take control of strategic trade routes. Solomon through numerous other marriage alliances (1 Ki. 11:1-3) strengthened his political and economic position in relation to the neighbouring states[ix]. These treaties provided security for the empire and income from trade, such as his maritime trading venture with Hiram of Tyre (1 Ki. 9:26-27).egipto_barco Revenue was raised through the taxing and tolling of the lucrative caravan trade in the South (between Egypt and Arabia) and in the North (between the Aramean states). Solomon also extracted tribute from the vassal states of goods and services[x]. These endeavours by Solomon secured peace through his international diplomacy and revenue through his international trade activities. In order to enable his active rulership of his subjects Solomon expanded the bureaucratic administration for both the central government and introduced regional governorships (1 Ki. 4:2-19).

1 Kings 4 contains an administrative list where the kingdom was divided into twelve districts that were to provide the palace with supplies, collected taxes, income from trade and a military levy[xi]. The division into the twelve districts affected Israel’s historical division into tribal territories[xii]; it dislocated the kinship based social structures of the tribes[xiii]. The boundaries of the new districts mostly ignored traditional tribal divisions and included new conquered territories and peoples[xiv]. 03_sol4Each district had newly appointed governors who were loyal (some were family) to the palace and Judah[xv]. These appointments would have weakened traditional tribal leadership structures within the newly centralised government. Each district was organised geographically as autonomous agricultural and economic units with newly founded or re-founded capital cities. The twelve districts were constituted for the material and political support of the palace controlled by the tribe of Judah. This is highlighted by the fact that Judah is excluded from these twelve districts and consequently excluded from contributing to the monthly needs of the palace[xvi]. In a certain manner Solomon governed the northern tribes as a subjugated region[xvii] with the goal of supplanting tribal loyalties with a loyalty to the imperial court. Therefore Solomon ruled in the interest of the centralised kingdom by destabilising the established tribal structure of Israel. Residual resentment regarding the new districts were suppressed during times of security and prosperity, but flamed up when the burden became too great.

The favouring of the South is reflected in the surrendering of territory in the North that destabilised their economic well-being[xviii].  The background to these events is a change of leadership in Egypt. During Solomon’s early reign Israel had beneficial relations (1 Ki. 3:1; 9:16) with Egypt whose military power and international influence were in decline since Ramesses III. This changed when the Libyan Shoshenq I (referred to in Scripture as Shishak: 1 Ki. 11:40, 14:25; 2 Chron. 12:2-9) became Pharaoh. He strengthened Egypt’s military and wanted to restore Egypt’s supremacy in Mediterranean Asia. This change in relations between Egypt and Israel can be seen in the trade rivalry between them and the fact that Egypt was willing to provide asylum to an insurgent to Solomon’s rule (1 Ki. 11:40). The relationship between Israel and Egypt moved from being an alliance partner to being an antagonistic opponent[xix]. solomon-1 The strengthening of the southern defences became an absolute focus of Solomon’s government, while not giving the same prominence to the defence of the North against the Arameans.  A revolt in Edom under King Hadad was suppressed by Solomon (1 Ki. 11:14-22) in order to protect the profitable southern caravan routes[xx]. This stood in sharp contrast to when Solomon failed to recapture his own provincial capital, Damascus from Rezon ben Eliada (1 Ki. 11:23-25)[xxi]. This would have caused great loss of economic activity in the North through lost property and income from lost trade routes[xxii]. This inaction by Solomon on behalf of the North whose prosperity and safety was under treat, while protecting the interest of the South caused unhappiness amongst the northern tribes.

Solomon initiated massive building programs, which included the expansion of the South’s military defences and his administrative complexes. Forced labour was sourced from the northern tribes for Solomon’s extensive building projects (1 Ki. 9:20-21; 4:20-21)[xxiii]. Most of Solomon’s building projects were concentrated in the South or were for their benefit[xxiv]. Making matters worse is when Solomon gave King Hiram 20 cities in the northern Galilee as payment for his help with Jerusalem’s building projects (1 Ki. 9:10-13). The land was the tribal allotment of Asher. These tribal lands are described in Scripture as belonging to the LORD and Solomon did not have the right to sell the land permanently (Lev. 25:23)[xxv]. While Solomon were exploring prosperous new trade routes (1 Ki. 9:26-27) and extending defences for Judah, the North were weakened defensively and declining economically.

building-the-templeThe South was developed at a great cost to the North in manpower, resources and property. Solomon showered generous royal rewards upon the tribe of Judah at the expense of the North[xxvi]. It is in light of these events that Jeroboam an Ephraimite and the official in Solomon’s court “in charge of the whole labour force” (1 Ki. 11:28) rebelled against the favouritism showed to Judah. Jeroboam became the embodiment of the North’s indignation against Solomon’s policies which impinges upon tribal entitlements and his exploitation of the northern tribes[xxvii]. Solomon’s favouritism shown to Judah sowed the seeds for the division of the kingdom.

The Lord who is the awesome, mighty and great God shows no favouritism (Deut. 10:17), but is fair. James states that when the community of God shows favouritism, they break the great command of love (Jam. 2:8-9).

End Notes
[i] (Brindle 1984:226)
[ii] (Halpern 1974:525)
[iii] (House 1995:107)
[iv] (Wiersbe 2002:35)
[v] (Keener 1993:na)
[vi] (House 1995:107-108)
[vii] (Sandoval 2016:19)
[viii] (Handy 2005:926)
[ix] (Keener 1993:na)
[x] (Schley 1987:601)
[xi] (Hess 2005:952)
[xii] (Hess 2005:967)
[xiii] (Longman 2005:449)
[xiv] (House 1995:108)
[xv] (Handy 2005:924)
[xvi] (Halpern 1974:529-531)
[xvii] (Handy 2005:924)
[xviii] (Dumbrell 2002:91)
[xix] (Halpern 1974:521, 524)
[xx] (Halpern 1974:521)
[xxi] (Brindle 1984:226)
[xxii] (Longman 2005:448)
[xxiii] (Handy 2005:925)
[xxiv] (Brindle 1984:226)
[xxv] (Wiersbe 2002:70)
[xxvi] (Halpern 1974:525)
[xxvii] (Soza 2005:545)
Cited Works
Brindle, W. 1984. “The Causes of the Division of Israel’s Kingdom.” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September):223-233.
Dumbrell, WJ. 2002. The Faith of Israel. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.
Fox, NS 2005. “State Officials.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Halpern, B. 1974. “Sectionalism and the schism.” Journal of Biblical Literature 93(4):519-532.
Handy, LK 2005. “Solomon.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Hess, RS 2005. “Taxes, taxation.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Hess, RS 2005. “Tribes of Israel and land allotments/borders.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
House, PR. 1995. The New American Commentary: 1,2 Kings. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Keener, GS. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Longman, T 2005. “History of Israel.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Sandoval, TJ 2016. “Reconfiguring Solomon.” in On Prophets, Warriors, and Kings, edited by GJ Brooke and A Feldman. Berlin: De Gruyter.
Schley, DG. 1987. “1 Kings 10:26-29: A Reconsideration.” Journal of Biblical Literature 106:595-601.
Soza, JR 2005. “Jeroboam.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.
Wiersbe, WW. 2002. Be Responsible: 1 Kings. Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries.

September 22, 2016
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Lessons from a Divided Kingdom: Part 5

Who can stand before jealousy?

1 Kings 12:1-19

Israel was defined  by twelve tribes. The tribes in turn were defined by family relationships.  A single family existed before there was a nation of Israel or twelve tribes. Several of the nation’s tribal jealousies had their origin in that family.

In this series of blogs we are exploring the underlying circumstances and events that gave cause to the division of the kingdom of Israel in to the Northern and Southern kingdoms under the rule of Rehoboam. The establishment of Israel as a kingdom was prophetically foretold and was part of God’s redemptive outreach to the nations of the world. In the last two blogs we investigated how the reasons behind Israel’s request for a king aggrieved God. meeting-of-jacob-and-esau-1844-francesco-hayezThey wanted to change their fortunes, but they blamed the governmental system instead of their own unfaithfulness. Where Israel was to be the model of God’s liberating rulership to other nations, they looked toward the pagan nations for solutions (1 Sam. 8:5). What Samuel foresaw (1 Sam. 8:17), occurred during the reign of Rehoboam: that having a king like the other nations would lead to the exploitation of the people. In the following two blogs we are going to look at how tribal jealousy and sectionalism contributed to the division of the kingdom. Tribal jealously and sectionalism are interrelated, yet slightly different[i]. Tribal jealousy is the destructive envy between the individual tribes where their own self-interests were strived for at the cost of national unity. Sectionalism accentuates how the national policies of the kingdom favoured the Southern tribes as a grouping over the Northern tribes. In this blog we will consider how familial jealously festered as a sickness amongst the tribes, while in the next blog we will examine how governmental policies divided the nation into two opposing Northern and Southern segments.

The Northern tribes responded to Rehoboam’s rejection by declaring: “What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!” (1 Kings 12:16). The rebelling ten tribes questioned their hereditary portion within the house of Jesse’s son in an undignified manner. They chose to leave the house of David behind in order to look after their own tribal houses. absaloms_rebellion_1334Their rally cry echoed Sheba’s identical rally cry in his attempted revolt against David (2 Sam. 20:1). This similarity points towards a deeply entrenched resentment[ii]. The twelve tribes were jealous for their own self-interest and independence[iii]. The tribes were only a political unity during the rule of three kings and as tribal units there were plenty of self-regarding interests to cause division. Skilfulness and determination from an astute leader during times of combined prosperity created unity in the past[iv]. However Rehoboam’s unwise actions brought the long existed jealousies between the tribes to the surface. The unequal distribution of privilege and resources under Solomon revived old jealousies and rivalries. National unity and harmony broke down because the Northern tribes sensed that they were discriminated against by the tribe of Judah[v]. The Northern tribes were also jealous over the pre-eminence of the tribe of Judah[vi]. These inter-tribal jealousies were born out of the blood relations that formed the nation of Israel. The whole political system was built upon kinship.

jacobblessinghissons1The long genealogies found in the bible do not only describe long lists of blood relationships, but reflected the established economic, social, financial and power stations within the nation[vii]. Israel was defined as a nation through the constituting twelve tribes. The tribes in turn were defined by family relationships. The story of Israel is therefore rooted in the histories of these collective families[viii]. In order to understand tribal alliances and jealousies, one needs to understand the family relations that gave rise to it. A single family existed before there was a nation of Israel or twelve tribes[ix]. Several of the nation’s tribal jealousies had their origin in the family of Jacob. Some of the later tribal allegiances and outlooks found their cause in the competitive nature of the relationships between the children of Leah and Rachel. Judah whose offspring became Israel’s royal family was the son of Leah. Jeroboam the new king of the North was the offspring of Ephraim, who was the grandchild of Rachel. All of these rivalries were based upon actual past human behaviour. These foundational family conflicts were the seeds of the divided kingdom[x]. There was no unity among the children of Jacob. Twelve sons from four mothers competing for the attention of one father gave cause amongst the brothers for behaviour that promoted self-interest above family harmony[xi].

Genesis 29-30 records how Jacob loved the younger and attractive Rachel more than the older and less attractive Leah. Both wives’ competition for Jacob’s affection turned into a rivalry in fertility. They included their maidservants in their rivalry to produce children. It is a tale of envy, jealousy, selfishness, greed, manipulation and disappointment in the struggle for Jacob’s love. Jacob actively contributed to the family’s rivalry by favouring Rachel and her children above the other mothers and children. This can be seen when Jacob was in fear of retribution from Esau when he returned from Aram (Gen. 33:1-2). Fearing Esau and his four hundred men he used his other family members as a human shield before his beloved Rachel and Joseph. Jacob’s favouritism was apparent and entrenched simmering jealousies amongst family members. From the early age of seventeen Joseph was in a literal reading of the original Hebrew, tending or acting as shepherd over his brothers in the flock[xii].joseph-in-pit Joseph was given authority as an overseer over his brothers and more particularly the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah (Gen. 37:2). The special coat Jacob gave Joseph was one that signified a position of authority and preference (Gen. 37:3)[xiii]. Reuben forfeited his right of the first-born due to his sin with Bilhah (Gen. 35:22), while Simeon and Levi brought dishonour to the family due to the slaughter of Shechem’s men (Gen. 34). Joseph as the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved Rachel was given Reuben’s birth right (1 Chron. 5:1-2). Jacob accepted Joseph’s two sons as his own (Gen. 48:5) and therefore gives Joseph a double portion of inheritance[xiv]. Jacob’s land in Shechem was also given to Joseph (Gen. 48:21-22). The toxicity of Jacob’s family relationship is revealed in the callousness with which Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and the apparent delight they took in reporting his loss to their father.

ba21Jacob prophetically foresaw that Judah would be the future kingly tribe (Gen. 49). Three instances of bloody strife between the tribes during their wanderings in the wilderness (Ex. 32:26-29, Num. 16:1-4; 32-35; 17:6-15; 25) are recorded in the Bible. The tribes of Israel showed a proclivity for brotherly strife[xv]. An indication of the changing tribal ascendancy was that during the wilderness wanderings Judah fronted the tribal groupings while the tribes of Joseph’s two sons made up the rear (Num. 2). During the period of the judges there were two instances when the tribe of Ephraim complained that they were not invited by the other tribes to share in the potential territorial spoils of war (Jdg. 8:1-3; 12:1-6)[xvi]. Inter-tribal resentment became more violent (Jdg. 9:1-57; 10:1-12:7) and unity more instable (Jdg. 15:9-17) and the historical account ends with a bloody inter-tribal war (Jdg. 20:1-21:12)[xvii]. Before the time of the kingdom the tribe of Ephraim had control of the Ark of the Covenant (Jdg. 18:31; 1 Sam 1:3) and the last judge Samuel was an Ephraimite. Saul the first king was from the tribe of Benjamin, a tribe nearly annihilated in the last war between the tribes (Jdg. 20:1-21:12). Jealous rivalry between Judah and Ephraim worsened under the reigns of the Judahite kings of David and Solomon[xviii].

David attempted to induce trust amongst the Northern tribes after a long war between the Northern and Southern tribes (2 Sam. 3:1). He approached the men of Jabesh-Gilead (2 Sam. 2:5-7) to secure their support. He married Maachah (2 Sam. 3:3) in order to seal a political treaty which affected the North[xix]. David’s alliance with Abner (2 Sam. 3:20-21) and the very public humiliation of Ish-Bosheth’s killers (2 Sam. 4:12) secured the Northern tribes’ support of his reign. www-st-takla-org-bible-slides-amos-1640Solomon during his reign reawakened Northern jealousies. He gave Judah tax-free status (1 Kings 4) and appointed Judahites or people sympathetic to their cause as district administrators (1 Kings 4:11-16). Solomon conscripted forced labour from the North, but concentrated all of his building projects in the South[xx]. Jeroboam an Ephraimite represented the flare-up of the Northern jealousies against an unsympathetic Judahite king Rehoboam (1 Kings 12). The writer of Proverbs wonders, “…who can stand before jealousy?”(Prov. 27:4). From our discussion of Israel’s tribal jealousies, it is clear that a kingdom of Israel could not stand against jealousy. The jealousies of the tribal forefathers lived amongst the tribes they birthed. These jealousies were foundational to the causes of the division of the Israel’s kingdom. It is therefore clear that jealousy is poisonous to the harmony, unity, prosperity and survival of God’s Kingdom community.

End Notes

[i] (Brindle 1984:226)

[ii] (Nyirimana 210:257)

[iii] (McClain 1968:103)

[iv] (Keener 1993:na)

[v] (Nyirimana 210:257)

[vi] (Brindle 1984:232)

[vii] (Matthews 2003:291)

[viii] (Books 2005:967)

[ix] (Oden 1983:200)

[x] (Nyirimana 210:257)

[xi] (Fischer 2002:354)

[xii] (Bush 1979:220)

[xiii] (Keener 1993:na)

[xiv] (Fischer 2002:354)

[xv] (Birnbaum 2008:110)

[xvi] (Fischer 2002:354)

[xvii] (Hobbs 2005:972)

[xviii] (Brindle 1984:226)

[xix] (McKenzie 2005:213)

[xx] (Brindle 1984:226)

Works Cited

Birnbaum, A. 2008. “Fraternal strife in the Bible.” Jewish Bible Quarterly 36(2):108-117.

Books, Dictionary o. t. O. T. H. 2005. “Tribes of Israel and land allotments/borders.” in Hess, RS, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Brindle, W. 1984. “The Causes of the Division of Israel’s Kingdom.” Bibliotheca Sacra (July-September):223-233.

Bush, G. 1979. Notes on Genesis. Minneapolis: James Family Christian Publishers.

Fischer, S. 2002. “The Division of Israel’s Monarchy and the Political Situation of Lesotho.” Verbum et ecclesia 23:353-366.

Hobbs, TR 2005. “War and peace.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Keener, Graig S. 1993. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Matthews, VH 2003. “Family Relationship.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch, edited by TD Alexander and DW Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

McClain, AJ. 1968. The Greatness of the Kingdom. Chicago: Moody Press.

McKenzie, SL 2005. “David’s family.” in Dictionary of the Old Testament: Historical Books, edited by BT Arnold and HGM Williamson. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press.

Nyirimana, E. 210. “The tribal dimension in the division of the Kingdom of Israel: A contextual study of 1 Kings12:1-24 from the perspective of the struggle for national unity in Rwanda.” Doctor of Philosophy, School of religion and theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal , Pietermaritzburg.

Oden, RA. 1983. “Jacob as father, husband and a nephew: Kinship studies and the patriarchal narratives.” Journal of Biblical Literature 102(2):189-205.