12 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.
Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him. And he said to them, “What do you advise that we answer this people who have said to me, ‘Lighten the yoke that your father put on us’?” And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’”
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that he might fulfill his word, which the LORD spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
The Kingdom Divided
And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Look now to your own house, David.” So Israel went to their tents. But Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was taskmaster over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death with stones. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.
When Rehoboam came to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: “Say to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, ‘Thus says the LORD, You shall not go up or fight against your relatives the people of Israel. Every man return to his home, for this thing is from me.’” So they listened to the word of the LORD and went home again, according to the word of the LORD.
Jeroboam’s Golden Calves
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.
1 Kings 12 Commentary
by Hank Workman
The split of the nation unfolds that would last for centuries.
Solomon had died. Rehoboam his son succeeded him and it was disastrous. In the transition of the government, he sought advice from the elders. Not particularly liking what they had to say, he sought out his own friends. Their advice was completely contrary to what had been advised. He chose his childhood friends over the wiser and it was the split that had been prophesied would happen by Ahijah in chapter 11.
When hearing what decision Rehoboam made, the 10 northern tribes split. Enter Jeroboam, one who had been prophesied over he would rule in Israel. The disgruntled people turned to him and he was crowned king. Rehoboam, who was now only king of the southern kingdom, Judah – attempted civil war to regain control, but was stopped. This was the beginning of division where both nations endured incredible hardship due to having evil kings.
Both of these men ruled with decisions that were good for themselves. They didn’t take into consideration their people. Rehoboam foolishly rejected advice that set the disaster in motion. Jeroboam would establish new places to worship to keep the people from traveling to Jerusalem. Both decisions backfired. Rehoboam divided the nation, Jeroboam turned the people from God.
Often we make decisions based on what’s best for us. We don’t take into consideration of how down the road this can affect others. In leadership, this is particularly critical. We can ‘advice shop’ but really should attempt to take ourselves out of the equation with what we hear. Many times we seek counsel from people who will tell us what we want to hear. We need those in our lives who are willing to speak truth to us even if it hurts and goes against our own desires. Add to this mix, as Believers we must seek the counsel of God first and foremost that will speak toward the path we are to take. Otherwise, we may just follow our heart, which is dark and sinful, and bring division and strife.
1 Kings 12 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
What happens when the vessel that is destined to carry God’s image into the world is split up and divided? What happens when civil war threatens the existence of those who represent His glory?
In the previous chapter, we read that Solomon did not like the consequences God brought down on his family. God chose Solomon’s adviser Jeroboam to be king over 10 tribes (Israel) but allowed Solomon’s son Rehoboam to control Judah. 2 Chronicles informs us that the tribe of Benjamin had also merged with Judah and that rounded out the 12. Solomon decided to try and kill Jeroboam and he fled for his life.
The Pride of Rehoboam
Here in 1 Kings 12, Soloman has died and his son Rehoboam is king. Solomon’s old adviser, Jeroboam, returns from Egypt and that’s when the showdown begins. Remember, God has already spoken through the prophet Ahijah that Jeroboam would be king over 10 tribes, but it hasn’t happened yet.
The critical turning point comes when Rehoboam is questioned by Jeroboam as to how he will treat the people. Will he impose the same type of rule and authority as Solomon did, or will he lighten their load? Solomon’s advisory team (older men) told Rehoboam to lighten their load but Rehoboam refused to listen. He consulted his friends in the younger generation and they told him to rule with an iron fist. He agreed with his friends and the first domino was triggered.
The 10 tribes responded to his decision with protest claiming that David’s family was worthless. Rehoboam sent Adoniram, the director of forced labor to get a grip on this rebellion but the 10 tribes along with Jeroboam stoned him to death! Rehoboam responded by gathering 180,000 warriors from Judah and Benjamin to eradicate these rebellious tribes but the Lord intervened.
‘This is what the LORD says: You are not to march up and fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Each of you must return home, for I have done this.'” So they listened to what the LORD said and went back as He had told them.1 Kings 12:24 HCSB
And finally, in verse 24, we read of someone actually listening and doing what God asked! I know, it’s shocking, right?
The Religion of Jeroboam
Unfortunately, for the rebels of Israel, Jeroboam (their new king) was not any better than Solomon’s son. Fearing that his people would return to Rehoboam if they went back to Jerusalem worship, he established his own worship centers in Samaria. This led to the establishment of “the religion of Jeroboam.” The people were engulfed in sin.
Overall, Rehoboam led the people away from God and Jeroboam did too. What can we make of this chapter? Maybe more than any single chapter in the Bible, 1 Kings 12 illustrates the horrific consequences of following our hearts. Just look at the final verse of this chapter describing Jeroboam’s state of mind…
He offered sacrifices on the altar he had set up in Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. He chose this month on his own. He made a festival for the Israelites, offered sacrifices on the altar, and burned incense.1 Kings 12:33 HCSB
He chose this month on his own. He didn’t consult God. He didn’t consult with the prophets of God. He didn’t consult with the Godly priests and Levites of his land. He simply decided in his own heart that he would do what he wanted. And here is the kicker – God let him have it. We are living in an era that bombards us with messages of individuality. Do what you want. Be who you want. Follow your heart. This type of thinking could not be further from the truth of God’s Scripture, and here in 1 Kings 12, we see what happens when we do just that.