I Kin. 12:1-13:10; 33, 34; II Chron. 10:1-11:4
The Kingdom of Israel was fragile, but united under the leadership of King Saul. Different tribes operated under independent loyalties to themselves. They briefly divided at the death of Saul with the tribes of Judah and Simeon (Simeon having been combined with Judah) accepting David as their king and the other ten tribes remaining loyal to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son until his assassination. After reuniting under David, Israel remained united until after the death of Solomon.
As Solomon’s son, Rehoboam ascended to the throne, Jeroboam was notified in Egypt of the change of government. He, along with Israel requested that Rehoboam lighten the grievous burdens that had been placed upon them by Solomon. With his lack of wisdom and abundance of pride, the new king rejected the advice of his father’s elders to deal kindly with the people. He heeded the advice of his young friends who encouraged him to drastically increase their burdens instead of reducing them.
Rehoboam unwittingly fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet, Ahijah. It was God’s plan to divide the kingdom because of Solomon’s disobedience. Judah along with Benjamin remained with Rehoboam in Jerusalem and that southern kingdom became known as Judah. The remaining northern tribes became known as Israel under Jeroboam as their king.
In order to bring the rebellious tribes back, Rehoboam assembled an army to attack Israel. God sent word to him by Shemaiah to refrain from war and for every man to return to his house. Rehoboam wisely obeyed God’s instruction in that matter.
Since the capital of Israel, now Judah was at Jerusalem in the southern kingdom, Jeroboam selected Shechem to serve as his capital. Also, for fear that the people would return to Rehoboam if they went to Jerusalem to worship as God had commanded, he set up altars at two other places of worship. They were located at Bethel in the south and Dan in the north.
One sees in the life of the new king, Jeroboam an independence to do things his way instead of relying upon the commandments of God. He made a golden calf for each of the two new places of worship and stated, “…Here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you up from the land of Egypt!” He also appointed priests, including himself from non-Levitical tribes. Jeroboam established a feast day in the eighth month instead of God’s commanded day in the seventh month.
Obviously, God was displeased with Jeroboam’s man-made worship. He sent a prophet from Judah to relate His displeasure. The prophecy about Josiah was fulfilled hundreds of years later. After seeing the signs performed from God, Jeroboam asked the prophet to pray for him and invited him to his house. The prophet however, declined the invitation because God had forbidden him to eat or drink while on his mission. Whatever repentance that may have been in his heart was short-lived. “After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way…”