Anatomy of a Grave Decision
Explore the Bible Series
January 2, 2011
Background Passage: I Kings 12:1-16:28 (II Chronicles 10:1-16:10)
Lesson Passage: I Kings 12:3-8, 16-18, 22-24
Last week we observed the foolish decisions of an aging King Solomon (unwise marriages, forced labor of foreigners and citizens of Israel, and compromise with idolatry), and our current lesson focuses on the impetuous and hasty choices of a young man, Rehoboam (cruelty, forced labor, exorbitant taxation, and continued idolatry).† The foolish choices of Solomon and Rehoboam brought catastrophic consequences on Godís people, and the divisions that occurred during this period, among the Hebrews, never healed.
This was a dismal period in Jewish history.† Both kingdoms, Israel and Judah, spiraled into horrific immorality and paganism.† With the exception of Asa, each monarch seemed to out-do the other in idol worship.† In time, the religious decline contributed to a pattern of political assassination and, in one case, suicide.† With each new king, we might anticipate that the moral and religious decline will reach its nadir; however, the gloomy circumstances do not find its lowest point until many years later (perhaps with the reign of Manasseh). Thankfully, a few godly kings punctuated the history of Judah, but, by and large, the story is a sad one.
I. Rehoboamís Foolhardy Decisions (12:1-24)
A. The new kingís ascension to power (12:1): We know little concerning the background of Rehoboam (his mother Naamah was an Ammonite).† His reign lasted for about seventeen years (c. 931-913 B.C.), and, sadly, he continued the destructive policies of his father. His coronation took place at Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim, about thirty miles north of Jerusalem.
B. The plea of the people (12:2-5): I Kings includes a detail concerning the return of Jeroboam, an exile from Solomonís reign (See I Kings 11:26-40).† The king appointed Jeroboam to oversee the forced labor of many Israelites to execute Solomonís ambitious building programs, and, in the wake of Solomonís apostasy, the Prophet Ahijah promised a portion of Davidís kingdom to Jeroboam.† Solomon, on the heels of this prophecy, sought to kill Jeroboam, and the young man sought refuge in Egypt.† At the time of Jeroboamís return, the people sent emissaries to seek relief from the cruel policies of Solomon. Rehoboam took three days to consider the request, and this decision proved the turning point for Rehoboamís reign.† Rebellion was in the air, and Jeroboam provided a center of leadership for political turmoil.
C. Rehoboam heeded foolish counsel (12:6-15): Two groups of counselors advised the new king: older, seasoned men and group of young contemporaries of the Rehoboam.† Tragically, the young monarch followed the recommendation of his reckless peers. ††The text indicates that all of this happened in accordance with Godís plan as revealed to the Prophet Ahijah (See v. 15); however, as so often in the Bible, we observe the juxtaposition of Godís providence and human responsibility.
D. The consequences of Rehoboamís actions (12:16-24): The frustrated people revolted against Rehoboam, and they killed Adoram, the kingís taskmaster. Rehoboam fled to Jerusalem, and, after a brief period of uneasy peace, war erupted between Israel and Judah, a war that lasted, off and on, for many years.
II. The Tragic Reign of Jeroboam (12:25-14:20)
A. The religious compromises of Jeroboam (12:25-33): Fearful that the center of religious worship, in Jerusalem, would weaken his power, Jeroboam, in effect, created his own religious cult, centered in Bethel and Dan. The text makes clear that God had given this kingdom to Jeroboam, and Jehovah pledged his blessing to Israel, if they obeyed his commandments.† Nevertheless, Jeroboam sought to consolidate his power by disobedience to God.† These compromises took four forms.
1. He created alternative places of worship at Bethel and Dan (12:28-30).
2. He appointed an alternative priesthood (12:31).
3. He built high places adorned with golden calves (12:28).† Canaanite worship often centered on temples adorned with golden calves, symbols of fertility and power.† In all probability, Jeroboam did not intend for his people to worship the images; rather, the calves served as symbol of the seat of Jehovahís supremacy.† Despite his intentions, the presence of these calves promoted compromise on the fundamental essence of Hebrew worship.
4. He appointed an additional feast (12:32-33): Ancient Israel followed an annual liturgy, outlined by the Law of Moses.† Jeroboam took liberties with the Law and appointed his own feast.
B. The message of a prophet (13:1-10): God sent an unnamed prophet to confront Jeroboam, at Bethel.† The Lordís messenger predicted that King Josiah (ruled Judah 640-609 B.C.) would ruin the temple built by Jeroboam.† The king, offended by the prophetís prediction, stretched out his hand to seize the Lordís messenger; however, Jeroboamís hand withered, according to the text. After restoring the kingís hand, the prophet refused to eat bread with Jeroboam, just as God had commanded him.
C. The prophetís disobedience (13:11-32):† This is a strange story.† An old prophet lived in Bethel, and, when he heard about the confrontation in the temple, he went to the younger prophet.† God had instructed the prophet from Judah to refrain from eating of drinking with the Israelites, but the old man lied to the prophet about the message of an angel, a message instructing the man from Judah to eat with the old prophet. The younger man foolish went to the old manís house and enjoyed a meal, but, in doing so, he invited the judgment of the Lord.† As he travelled back to Judah, a lion killed the prophet.† The old man brought the prophetís body back to Bethel and buried the man.
D. Jeroboamís continued disobedience to God (13:33-14:20): Israelís king continued his disobedience to God, and, in time, great calamity came upon Jeroboamís family.† Prince Abijah fell ill, and Jeroboam sent his wife, in disguise, to the Prophet Ahijah.† The old prophet predicted the destruction of Jeroboamís household, a destruction that would begin with the death of the kingís son.† After twenty-two years of disgraceful governance of Israel, Jeroboam died.
III. ††A Brief Catalog of the Early Monarchs of Israel and Judah (14:21-16:28)
A. Rehoboam of Judah (14:21-31): This idolatrous man ruled Judah for seventeen years, and he led his subjects into terrible idolatry, the worship of the Asherim. Canaanite mythology worshipped this female fertility goddess (Asheroth or Asherah) and her son Baal.† This pagan religion centered its immoral activities in groves and high places. Rehoboamís reign was troubled by invasion from Egypt, under Shishak and continued hostilities with the Northern Kingdom.
B. Abijam (Abijah) of Judah (15:1-8): We must not confuse this man with the son of jeroboam.† Abijam continued the compromised worship of his father, and continued his Rehoboamís hostilities toward Israel.† His reign lasted only three years (913-910 B.C.).
C. Asa of Judah (15:9-24): Asa ruled for forty-one years (913-873 B.C.), and his reign proved honorable.† He reversed many of the idolatrous practices of his father and grandfather, to the extent that he removed his pagan mother from authority.† Unfortunately, Asa did make a grave mistake by bribing the king of the Syrians to an alliance against Israel.
D. Nadab of Israel (15:25-31): This evil man had governed only two years (909-908 B.C.) when Baasha murdered him as Israel laid siege to the Philistine city of Gibbethon. Baasha killed Nadabís entire household, thus fulfilling Godís pledge to destroy the lineage of Jeroboam.
E. Baasha of Israel (15:33-16:7): Unfortunately, Baasha learned little from the destruction of Jeroboamís lineage, and the new king, throughout a twenty-four year reign, continued in the pagan practices of his predecessors. The Prophet Jehu (not to be confused with King Jehu of a later date) to foretell the devastation of Baashaís family.
F. Elah of Israel (16:8-14): Elah, son of Baasha, governed Israel for two years (886-885 B.C.), and he persisted in the pagan practices of his father.† One of Elahís military officials, a man named Zimri, murdered the king and all the male descendants of Baasha.
G. Zimri of Israel (16:15-20): After Zimriís treachery, he ruled Israel for only a week.† Omri, a general in Israelís army, rose against Zimri, and, in despair, the king committed suicide by burning the palace on himself.
H. Omri of Israel (16:21-28): After Zimriís suicide two men, Omri and Tibni, struggled for power, a struggle that lasted until Tibniís death.† In some ways Omri proved a good king.† He provided political stability, established Samaria as Israelís capitol, and it appears he reduced tensions with Judah.† Nevertheless, his pagan tendencies proved a catalyst for Israelís desperate idolatry.† His legacy also included fathering King Ahab.