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Israeli Civil War

posted Aug 27, 2012, 5:30 PM by Website Administrator   [ updated Aug 27, 2012, 5:30 PM ]
September 2, 2012
1 Kings 12

Israeli Civil War  

Central Bible Truth: The Kingdom is divided; God’s people turn to other religions; yet God still displays His love for His people by inviting them to turn back to Him.

Introduction: In Marc Antony’s famous speech in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, he says in part, “The evil that men do lives after them, The good is oft interred with their bones.” This quote, while applied to Caesar, could be equally applied to King Solomon. He was well known for his great wisdom, his wealth, building the temple, and the peace the nation enjoyed during his reign. However, we read also of his 700 wives and 300 concubines and how these women, many from foreign nations, turned his heart away from God. In order to please these wives, he built shrines and high places for the detestable gods Chemosh and Molech and offered
sacrifices to them. As a result, the great kingdom he built was torn away from his son and the kingdom split in two. Solomon did many great things but the evil that he did is what lived after him.

Background: Deuteronomy 7:1-4 When the LORD your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations — the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you — 2 and when the LORD your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other 
gods, and the LORD's anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.

Taking foreign wives violated the Lord’s prohibitions against marrying Canaanite women. Many of Solomon’s marriages were political in nature as the common custom of the time was to seal alliances by marriage between royal houses. However God also said NOT to make treaties with them, so Solomon, in yielding to the customs of the day, brought serious spiritual consequences on himself and his people. One could make the case that David did not follow God’s commands either, but David was loyal to the Lord and placed his trust in Him. He also repented of his sins and accepted the punishment of the Lord and never turned away from worshiping Him. Solomon turned to worship of other gods. Scripture clearly points this out. 

1 Kings 11:4-6 As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the LORD his God, as the heart of David his father had been. 5 He followed Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 6 So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

The result was the splitting of the kingdom during the reign of his son Rehoboam.

Making Bad Choices

During the period of the Judges, the people of Israel began to yearn for a king. This request displeased the Lord, but he was not surprised by this action. Years before He had spoken to Moses about setting a king over the people. He said that the king should not do certain things that will cause him to turn away from the Lord.

Deuteronomy 17:14-17 "When you come to the land which the LORD your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, 'I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,' 15 you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. 16 But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the LORD has said to you, 'You shall not return that way again.' 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.

Solomon as king knew these words, but did not obey the Lord’s commands. I Kings 11 is a sad litany of the failures of Solomon. He had so much; wisdom, wealth, peace, the respect of the nations, but he failed to love the Lord more than his possessions. That led to his poor decisions and also to God’s judgment. 

1 Kings 11:7-8 On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech the detestable god of the Ammonites. 8 He did the same for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods.

The First Commandment says. “Thou shall have no other gods besides me.” Solomon knew these words as well. In his dedication address to the people he praised the Lord for His faithfulness to Israel, he reminded his subjects about God keeping His promises, and challenged them to faithfully follow the Lord and obey His commands. But something happened to Solomon so that he forgot his own words. The result was punishment.

9 The LORD became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. 10 Although he had forbidden Solomon to follow other gods, Solomon did not keep the LORD's command. 11 So the LORD said to Solomon, "Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. 12 Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. 13 Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen."

What followed was a dismal record of king after king in both kingdoms turning away from God to worship these foreign gods that Solomon allowed to permeate the country. The final result was the carrying away into captivity the divided nation who had forsaken the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

In spite of this bad news, there is a glimmer of hope. The Lord would preserve one tribe for the sake of David. Remember the promise that David’s kingdom would last forever, so even in this dark moment, we see the eternal promise kept alive. As we continue through the studies of the terrible trials of the two kingdoms, look for that promise to continue.

Strife and Conflict

Near the end of Solomon’s life, adversaries rose up against his heretofore peaceful kingdom. One of these was the subordinate mentioned in God’s words to Solomon, Jereboam. He was a trusted official in charge of the labor force for Solomon’s industrious projects. On a trip out from Jerusalem, Jereboam met the prophet Ahijah who was wearing a new cloak. In a surprising move, Ahijah ripped the new cloak into twelve pieces signifying the tribes of Israel. He gave Jereboam ten pieces and related the prophecy form the Lord and announced that Jereboam would lead the ten tribes. Once again, as we have seen so often in the past studies,  obedience to the Lord is the key to success. Many would say, “Oh, but Solomon was very successful.” By the world standards, he was. But success does not always equate with wealth. Being successful in the eyes of the Lord is to live in obedience to His commands. These words from Proverbs show the blessings of obedience 

Proverbs 2:1 My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, :5-6 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God. 7-10 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the
way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.

Taking Bad Advice

Upon the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam ascended the throne. As a result of Solomon’s extensive building projects, the people were heavily burdened with taxes and labor. The people came to him asking for relief. 1 Kings 12:1-4 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. 2 then Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 "Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you." 

It seemed like a reasonable request. It is interesting to note that they did not request a return to following only the Lord God. Rebohoam asked for three days to answer and consulted first with elders who were his father’s advisors, then he asked advice from his peers. The elders advised kindness and a servant heart, while the young men recommended even harsher measures than Solomon had used.

Matthew Henry wrote: “ The grave experienced men of his council advised him by all means to give the petitioners a kind answer, to give them good words, to promise them fair, and this day, this critical day, to serve them, that is, to tell them that he was their servant, and that he would redress all their grievances and make it his business to please them and make them easy.

The young men of his council were hot and haughty, and they advised him to return a severe and threatening answer to the people's demands. It was a folly for him to think that, because they had been his agreeable companions in the sports and pleasures of his youth, they were therefore fit to have the management of the affairs of his kingdom These young counselors thought the old men expressed themselves but dully. They affected to be witty in their advice, and value themselves on that.

Rehoboam did not prefer moderate counsels, but was pleased with those that put him upon harsh and rigorous methods, and advised him to double the taxes, whether there was occasion for so doing or no.  He answered the people according to the counsel of the young men.  He could not have acted more foolishly and impoliticly. He fancied himself better able to manage them, and impose upon them, than his father was, not considering that he was vastly inferior to him in capacity.  He threatened not only to squeeze them by taxes, but to chastise them by cruel laws and severe executions of them. In short, he would use them as brute beasts, load them and beat them at his pleasure: not caring whether they loved him or no, he would make them fear him.

Those that lose the kingdom of heaven throw it away, as Rehoboam did his, by their own willfulness and folly.” (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

When the people heard his reply, they said:  "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!" So the Israelites went home. (1 Kings 12:16)  As we would say in our time, “We’re done.” Rehoboam’s insensitivity to the volatile situation led to a division of the nation. 

In one more foolish attempt to bring the nation back under his control, Rehoboam sent Adoram, the chief of taxation and forced labor to negotiate with the people. The hostile northern tribes stoned him to death and Rehoboam fled for his life to Jerusalem. He seriously made plans to attack, but the Lord intervened through the prophet Shemaiah who told him, “You shall not go up or fight against your relatives. Return home, this thing is from me.”

Taking Bad Advice (Part Two) 

If Rehoboam could be faulted for following poor advice, Jeroboam could also be faulted for the same thing.  His bad advice however, came from his own thoughts.

1 Kings 12:20  When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David. Jeroboam had a chance to establish a strong and godly kingdom. Based on the words of the prophet Ahijah God was handing him this opportunity, but as we have seen throughout this history, obedience was key to success. 1 Kings 11:38-39 “ If you do whatever I command you and walk in my ways and do what is right in my eyes by keeping my statutes and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a 
dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you. 39 I will humble David's descendants because of this, but not forever.'" 

The ten northern tribes made Jeroboam their king and he fortified the ancient city of Shechem for his dwelling place. However, he worried about the people who were to go to Jerusalem a certain times for feasts and to offer sacrifices. He worried about the people returning to worship God in Jerusalem and so made some decisions about what to do. In other words, he sought his own advice.

1 Kings 12:26-27  Jeroboam thought to himself, "The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam."

We see no evidence that he sought advice from God or that he consulted the prophet.

John MacArthur wrote, “Having received the kingdom from God , he should have relied on the divine protection. But he did not. He made serious and unwarranted innovations on the religious observances of the country on the pretext of saving the people the trouble and expense of a journey to Jerusalem. He erected two bulls similar to the Egyptian gods Apis and Mnevis as symbols of the True God. (Thou shall not make any graven images) One was placed in Dan in the northern part of the country and the other a Beth-el, the southern extremity of his territory. This was a sin because it was setting up the worship of God by symbols and departing 
form the place where God had chosen to put his name – the Temple in Jerusalem. In addition, he changed the dates of the Feast of Tabernacles from the seventh month to the eighth month. As time went on, he also appointed as priests any who wanted the job, as many Levites would not participate in this calf worship.”

These decisions amounted to the creation of a new religion. One could argue that they were worshiping God, but in essence they were not. They were worshiping golden images made by man, expressly condemned in scripture.  NKJV study notes said, “His various attempts at religious innovation would quickly incur God’s denunciation and earn him a reputation that would live in spiritual infamy.”
Jeroboam’s sin was to lead the people a way from the worship of one true God. While he at first wanted the calves to be the symbol of God, the people began to worship the symbol rather than God. Furthermore, it did not take long for the people to associated the images with the Canaanite fertility cult of their pagan neighbors. Jeroboam was guilty of redesigning the faith to meet his own political aims. “a religion of convenience, devised in one’s heart, is an abomination to God and is condemned by history as was the substitute faith of Jeroboam. He was branded forever as “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin.” (2 Kings 23:15) .

The Rest of the Story

Jeroboam’s son became ill and his wife disguised herself and went to the prophet, Ahijah. He was divinely directed by God to recognize her and then to deliver God’s judgment on Jeroboam and his family. Jeroboam’s great sin led to terrible disaster for himself and his family.

1 Kings 14:7-13 “Go, tell Jeroboam that this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I raised you up from among the people and made you a leader over my people Israel. 8 I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. 9 You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have provoked me to anger and thrust me behind your back. 10 " 'Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel — slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. 11 Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country. The LORD has spoken!' 12 "As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. 13 All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good.” 

Rehoboam did not fare much better in Judah. The people there also turned away from God as they followed the example of Solomon. 

1 Kings 14:21 Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah…22 Judah did evil in the eyes of the LORD. By the sins they committed they stirred up his jealous anger more than their fathers had done. 23 They also set up for themselves high places, sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. 24 There were even male shrine prostitutes in the land; the people engaged in all the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.  25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem. 26 He carried off the treasures of the temple of the LORD and the treasures of the royal palace. He took everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made…30 There was continual warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. 31 And Rehoboam rested with his fathers and was buried with them in the City of David. 

As a final reminder about the dangers of marrying foreign women, we read this in Rehoboam’s obituary notice.

1 Kings 14:31 His mother's name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite. And Abijah his son succeeded him as king.

It was Solomon’s marriage to these foreign wives that turned him away from God and led to the disastrous division of the kingdom and the turning away of the people in both kingdoms from God. Rather than returning the nation to the faithful worship of the Lord God of Israel and rather than following Him only, these two kings continued down the road where Solomon had lead the nation. They did not repent, they did not follow the Lord completely, they led their nations into more sin. It will not be a good ending for these kingdoms.

Speaking to Us Across the Centuries

What can we in our generation learn from this account of Jewish history?

1.   God must have first place in our lives. 

“No other gods” means that nothing is more important than our relationship with the Lord.  When we have the proper relationship with Him, our other relationships will be blessed.  We must trust Him to be the only source of our strength, the only source of divine direction, the only source of salvation. We must worship Him alone.

2. Images or Icons are no substitute for God

“No graven images” means not substituting any visual image for the Invisible God.  Religious icons appear in many ways in Christianity. We see crosses, churches, stained glass windows, statues, images of Mary, of Christ, of other Biblical figures. Admiring them for their beauty or wearing a cross to show your faith 
is one thing, but putting any of them on the level with God elevates that icon to equality with God. Again, we must worship Him alone.

3.  Seek guidance from the Lord

Failure to seek God’s direction can lead to disaster.  Both kings needed advice about very important issues, but nowhere do we read that either of them sought direction from God directly or through His prophets.  Their decisions were made on human understanding of the situation when they really needed Godly direction.

4. Obedience to His Word is crucial in our spiritual walk.

Time and time again God said, “Walk in My ways.” These men failed miserably in following God’s commands.  In our society today, we hear many voices telling us that the Bible is outdated, that there are many ways to God, that if it feels good, do it.We must look to scripture to discern what is right in God’s eyes, then take steps to obey His Word. We must stand firm in our convictions that His Word is our guide.