1 Kings 12:1-14:20 – Jeroboam I of Israel (924–903 B.C.E.)
SummaryThe division of the kingdom following Solomon's death, fulfilling the prophecy of Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings 11:26-40), is recounted, with Jeroboam receiving the ten northern tribes.
AnalysisThe story of Jeroboam's reign begins with a problem. Chapter 11 made it very clear that the division of the kingdom was a result of Solomon's idolatry. Chapter 12, however, attributes the division to Rehoboam's intransigence regarding his advisors' request for a lessening of Solomon's heavy oppression. Perhaps we are meant to see chapter 11 as the reason why the division occurred and chapter 12 as a discussion of how the division actually took place; after all, verse 15 informs us that "this turn of events was from the LORD" (Hebrew) in order to fulfill Ahijah's prophecy. When Rehoboam foolishly rejected the pleas of his people, civil war ensued and the ten northern tribes seceded under the leadership of Jeroboam, never to reunite. Though the civil war continued at irregular intervals for years, the intervention of the prophet who reminded the people that God was behind the division prevented an utter bloodbath (12:21-24).
Jeroboam was an effective leader, reigning for twenty-two years (12:25-33). His political effectiveness, however, is the root cause of the Bible's condemnation. He shrewdly surmised that a complete break from Solomon's political unity would entail severing religious ties with the Jerusalem temple. This break was accomplished by setting up rival shrines in Bethel and Dan, the southern and northern extremities of "Israel" (12:25-30). Each shrine was furnished with a golden bull-calf, possibly as a "throne" for God to sit upon, but worshipers bowing to the invisible Lord enthroned upon the bull-calf might not have differentiated between worship of God and worship of the all-too-visible golden calf (compare Exodus 32:4-8). Or such was the judgment of 1-2 Kings that uses this political move as the judgment against all the northern kings.
Ahijah of Shiloh, the prophet who announced Jeroboam's rise, also announced the end of Jeroboam's reign (11:26-40; 14:1-20). Classical prophecy is linked to the monarchy in the Old Testament. God used the prophets as messengers to correct and admonish the kings. Ahijah had warned Jeroboam that his dynasty would depend upon his faithful obedience to God's statutes and commandments, as had David's (11:38). Jeroboam's cultic innovations spelled the end for him and his house (14:10-16), as confirmed by the immediate death of his son Abijah.