Solomon’s increasing infidelity sowed the seeds of division throughout the land promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Solomon’s constant consumption of Israel’s resources allowed him to build a great kingdom but at a heavy price to God’s people.
His son, like the sons of many tyrants, found it easy to imitate his father’s harshness but not so easy to grasp the political wisdom, or cunning, that would enable him to maintain power.
As a result, Rehoboam reaps a bitter harvest of division as he leads the kingdom of Israel into the chaos and dissolution of civil war.
David’s kingdom is rent asunder by the third generation, and from that point on it will be a kingdom divided.
With no enemies left in the land, Israel turns upon itself, raising the question, “Will peace ever reign over the land where Abraham sojourned?”
The period of the Divided Kingdom is recounted in three acts: the division of the kingdom, the resulting northern kingdom, and the resulting southern kingdom.
In act one, Solomon’s son Rehoboam is made the new king of Israel.
But rather than easing the people’s burdens, Rehoboam increases the hoke placed upon them, and the weight splits the kingdom asunder.
Act two follows the story of the NORTHERN TEN TRIBES, who make up the Northern Kingdom and retain the name “Israel.”
Tragically, the Northern Kingdom beaks away not simply from the political rule of the Davidic king but also from worship in Jerusalem’s Temple.
The Northern Kingdom’s creation of its own cult, in direct opposition to God’s law in the Torah, points the kingdom in the direction of downfall right from its outset.
Act three follows the story of the remaining Southern Kingdom, which takes the name “Judah.”
Unlike the Northern Kingdom, whose kings all prove unfaithful, the Southern Kingdom will have several heroic kings who prove faithful to God’s law.
Eventually, however, the wickedness of the unfaithful kings will lead God’s people to exile and loss of the Promised Land.
But even at this dark moment in Israel’s history, the prophets will kindle a light of hope.
Just before 1 Kings recounts Solomon’s death, it recalls an incident that will be of immense importance for the division of the kingdom.
Solomon promotes an industrious Ephraimite, Jeroboam, to oversee the forces of labor of the house of Joseph (which comprises the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh).
When the narrator introduces Jeroboam, we are told not only his father’s name but also his mother’s name, Zeruah (1 Kgs 11:26).
This small detail is portentous.
As we saw earlier, whenever a king is first named, his mother, the queen mother, is also named; the naming of Jeroboam’s mother points to a royal destiny for Jeroboam.
One day, as Jeroboam leaves Jerusalem (perhaps symbolic of his later hostility towards that city), he encounters the prophet Ahijah, who suddenly takes off his new garment and tears it into TWELVE PIECES.
Ahijah tells Jeroboam to take 10 pieces because God is going to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and Jeroboam will get 10 tribes.
Prophets often gave visual signs that embodied their words.
Ahijah makes clear that God’s rending of the kingdom is a punishment for Solomon’s idolatry and sin.
In contrast, God promises Jeroboam that he will build him a sure house and be with him if only he “will walk in my ways, and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commandments” (1 Kgs 11:38).
Jeroboam flees to Egypt for refuge when Solomon hears about this prophecy.
After Solomon’s death, all Israel gathers at Shechem to make his son, Rehoboam, king (1 Kgs 12:1).
Jeroboam returns from Egypt and is summoned to Shechem to represent the northern tribes of Israel in an embassy who appeal to Rehoboam, saying: “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke upon us, and we will serve you.” (1 Kgs 12:4)
It is only here, after Solomon’s death, that the narrative shows clearly just how harsh Solomon’s rule was to the people of Israel; Solomon ended his reign as a tyrant.
King Solomon, the son of David, ruled by placing a heavy yoke and hard service upon his people.
Jesus, in contrast, will call all to come to himself, for his yoke will be EASY (Mt 11:29-30).
Rehoboam asks for three days to consider the request and seek advice of his counselors.
Rehoboam first consults his father’s advisors, described as “old men,” who wisely direct him to speak kind words to the people, saying that if he would but serve the people for a day, they will serve him forever.
Rehoboam then consults the “young men” with whom he had grown up.
What the young men lack in experience, they attempt to make up with bravado, advising Rehoboam to threaten a still heavier yoke and to add, “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions” (1 Kgs 12:11)
Rehoboam, with supreme folly, listens to his friends and rebukes the people, resulting in overwhelming rejection of the house of David.
The only tribe left to Rehoboam is his own tribe, Judah (followed later by the return of the tribe of Benjamin).
Rehoboam, still callously foolish, sends Adoram, the taskmaster of the forced labor and embodiment of Israel’s suffering and oppression, to subdue the breakaway tribes.
Adoram is stoned, and Rehoboam quickly flees on his chariot.
Rehoboam soon musters a force of 180,000 troops to fight the rebellion.
The number of Rehoboam’s troops equals the total number of forced laborers that his father Solomon possessed (1 Kgs 5:13-16) and shows Rehoboam’s willingness to follow in his father’s oppressive and Pharaoh-like leadership.
Before fighting breaks out, the prophet Shemaiah tells Rehoboam not to “fight against your kinsmen” (1 Kgs 12:24), and, surprisingly, he obeys and disbands the army.
Clearly, God is willing to allow the rupture within the twelve tribes, but he does not will any bloodshed between them.
The ten northern tribes call an assembly and make Jeroboam their king.
From this point forward, the royal kingdom is split in two forever.
The Northern Kingdom under Jeroboam’s leadership retains the name Israel.
The Southern Kingdom under Rehoboam and the line of David will be called by the name of David’s tribe, Judah.
Unfortunately for the modern reader, these two kingdoms are not always so designated by the biblical authors.
From this point onward, the only way to determine what is meant by “Israel” or “Israelite” is to look to the context in which it is used, and form there determine whether “Israel” refers to ALL TWELVE TRIBES OF THE ORIGINAL KINGDOM, or whether it refers to only the TEN TRIBES OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM.
In addition, since it is the largest and most powerful tribe of the Northern Kingdom, “Ephraim” will also be used at times to refer to the Northern Kingdom of Israel.
So when you read 1 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 10 & 11, it sounds almost WORD FOR WORD
It is the story of the Kingdom Dividing!!!
Remember that 1 Kings is telling the story closer to the source, kind of in REAL TIME
Chronicles is the story being RETOLD after the EXILE TO BABYLON
The people of Judah were EXILED and then RETURN
Remember, the NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL GETS LOST FOREVER EVENTUALLY!!
So am I!
The story is the same in these two books
Rehoboam is being smart and fortifying the cities in Judah and Benjamin
That is smart
We also hear about some of his wives and sons
But keep this in mind
There are some commonalities between 1 Kings 12 and 2 Chronicles 10 &11
Rehoboam is the son of Solomon
Jeroboam was prophesied to be the next king by the prophet Ahijah
Rehoboam was foolish but DIDN’T HAVE TO BE
This is one of the mysteries of FREE WILL
God’s FOREKNOWLEDGE and GRACE
How does it all work together?
IT IS A MYSTERY!
Rehoboam asks for counsel and then time to figure out what to do
All the people, including Jeroboam, came to Rehoboam and said Solomon was tough on them
Yes, Solomon was wise
Yes, Solomon built a lot of stuff
Yes, Solomon accomplished a lot of things
It wasn’t SOLOMON who accomplished all these things
It was the PEOPLE UNDER SOLOMON who actually accomplished all these things
Solomon created SLAVERY among HIS OWN PEOPLE!!
So unlike Solomon, give them a break, Rehoboam!
So the older counselors tell him to go easy on the people and they will love him forever
But when Rehoboam takes counsel from the young men (aka MILLENNIALS!! 🤪 I’m just kidding, young people! Please don’t get offended) they tell him to come down HARD on them….WITH FRIGGIN SCORPIONS!! 😱
The big question is, where do we look for COUNSEL?
Do we look to SOURCES OF WISDOM?
Or do we look to the PEOPLE WHO AGREE WITH US?
That is a temptation EVERY SINGLE ONE OF US HAVE
Older people might actually know something MORE THAN I KNOW
Or do I just ask the people I grew up with for counsel?
Do I just appeal to those who agree with me?
Or do I seek counsel from those who ACTUALLY HAVE WISDOM TO OFFER ME?
Rehoboam did not take counsel from those who had WISDOM to offer him
He took the counsel from people who told him what he WANTED TO HEAR
PEOPLE WHO WERE JUST LIKE HIM
We can learn MORE from people who are NOT LIKE US than we can from people who are JUST LIKE US
Does that make sense?
We can learn more from people who have WISDOM rather than from people who JUST AGREE WITH US
So what happens?
Rehoboam tells them about the SCORPIONS!
This doesn’t win a lot of friends
Jeroboam and the 10 TRIBES OF THE NORTH secede and establish the NORTHERN KINGDOM
So from NOW ON, the Kingdom of Israel refers to the 10 TRIBES IN THE NORTH and Jeroboam is KING
The Kingdom of Judah (Two Tribes: Benjamin and Judah) is now the SOUTHERN KINGDOM and Rehoboam is KING
Remember, Rehoboam is the son of Solomon, and the grandson of David
Here is what Jeroboam realized
He realized that if the Israelites were in the NORTH and they have to go to Jerusalem to worship in the Temple, their hearts are going to TURN BACK TO GOD
Their hearts are going to belong to God as well as God’s anointed, Rehoboam
Who was Rehoboam?
THE KING OF THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM
So what does the King of the NORTHERN KINGDOM do?
He builds places of worship in Bethel (Southern part of the new kingdom) and in Dan (Northern part of the new kingdom)
What kind of places of worship does Jeroboam build?
GOLDEN CALVES FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!!
Have they NOT learned this lesson YET???
NEVER DO THAT!!
But the first thing Jeroboam does as king is LEAD THE PEOPLE INTO IDOLATRY
Jeroboam also makes PRIESTS out of ANY TRIBE
So the Levitical Priests head back to the Southern Kingdom (although SOME do stay up north and we will see what happens with them)
Jeroboam establishes FALSE PLACES OF WORSHIP
Jeroboam establishes FALSE WORSHIP (IDOLATRY)
Jeroboam establishes a FALSE PRIESTHOOD
This will be a MASSIVELY IMPORTANT THEME
The People of Israel were called to GIVE GOD GLORY
The People of Israel were called to GIVE GOD THEIR HEARTS BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE
So what’s happening in the Northern Kingdom of Israel?
IMMEDIATELY...😉 they are led into IDOLATRY
Things don’t get any better from here on out
God will send them PROPHETS
God also sends prophets to the Southern Kingdom
We will be here for MONTHS in this era so sit back and relax
It’s REMARKABLE how rarely how people listen to God’s Word
That’s US as well
So often WE DO NOT LISTEN to the Word of God when He is speaking to us so clearly
Song of Solomon (Also known as Song of Songs or Canticle of Canticles): The Great Adventure Bible says there are three ways people have read this book
FIRST, as an Allegory
For Jews, it is the story of the relationship between God and his Chosen People of Israel
For Christians, it is the story of the relationship between Jesus the Bridegroom and the Church the Bride
SECOND, it is HUMAN LOVE POETRY
Another way to say it is EROTIC LOVE POETRY
Back in the day, people weren’t allowed to read Song of Solomon until they were of a certain age or certain maturity level
It is somewhat RACY 😉
THIRD, reading it in the LITERAL SENSE
TYPE or PREFIGUREMENT or FORESHADOWING of the union of Christ and His Church or God and Israel (TYPOLOGY!! THE WHOLE BOOK IS TYPOLOGY!!)
So as Catholic Christians, we can read this book IN ALL THOSE WAYS because it is ALL THREE OF THOSE THINGS
In many ways, we want to acknowledge the GOODNESS of human love, between man and woman
Love between OUR GOD AND US, HIS PEOPLE
INITIALLY, it was the People of Israel
NOW, in the Age of the Church, it is ALL THOSE WHO BELONG TO GOD THROUGH BAPTISM
So read this love story, this love poetry
It’s going to have some really interesting images
For example, behold in Sg 1:15 “Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.”
It’s going to get a little weirder and more poetic
Not only are your eyes doves, but OTHER OTHER THINGS…..it’ll be fun you guys!!
We have 8 days to spend with Song of Solomon
PRAY FOR EACH OTHER
PRAY FOR FR. MIKE