1 Kings 11:26–43: Jeroboam Rebels Against Solomon, Solomon’s Death
In the last passage we read about a couple of Solomon’s adversaries, though it wasn’t clear (to me) if they had any lasting impact on Solomon or the nation of Israel. In this passage we read about Jeroboam, who had a huge impact on the nation—in fact, after Jeroboam’s rebellion we no longer have a single nation of Israel, we have two nations: Israel in the North1, and Judah in the South.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Whatever is going to come next, Jeroboam starts out well. (Yes, that’s foreshadowing.) He’s one of Solomon’s officials, and Solomon recognizes his good work, rewarding him with higher responsibilities.
It is during this time that Jeroboam is doing such good work on behalf of his king that he is approached by a prophet named Ahijah. Ahijah is wearing a new cloak, which he tears into twelve pieces, handing 10 of them to Jeroboam—along with a prophecy from the LORD:
Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take ten pieces for yourself, for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘See, I am going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon’s hand and give you ten tribes. But for the sake of my servant David and the city of Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, he will have one tribe. I will do this because they have forsaken me and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Molek the god of the Ammonites, and have not walked in obedience to me, nor done what is right in my eyes, nor kept my decrees and laws as David, Solomon’s father, did.
“‘But I will not take the whole kingdom out of Solomon’s hand; I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of David my servant, whom I chose and who obeyed my commands and decrees. I will take the kingdom from his son’s hands and give you ten tribes. I will give one tribe to his son so that David my servant may always have a lamp before me in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to put my Name. However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees 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. I will humble David’s descendants because of this, but not forever.’”
Solomon must hear about this, because verse 40 tells us that he tries to kill Jeroboam, but Jeroboam flees to Egypt and remains there until Solomon’s death.
The end of the chapter relates Solomon’s death, mentioning that all of his works (along with his wisdom) were recorded in the Book of the Annals of Solomon, a book which I assume is probably lost to history. His son Rehoboam succeeds him as king.
The first thing we notice about this passage is that the math doesn’t work. 🙂 Ahijah tears his robe into twelve pieces—representing the twelve tribes of Israel—then tells Jeroboam that he’ll be in charge of ten tribes and the house of David will remain in charge of one. Which only adds to eleven, not twelve! The ESV Study Bible assumes that the “missing tribe” is probably the tribe of Benjamin:
Benjamin is not included in the math here (cf. 12:21), perhaps because this tribe was regarded simply as Jerusalem’s own territory, on the analogy of the Canaanite city-state; this territory came with the city, and needed no special mention.
Math aside, Jeroboam is shown in a good light here. He’s serving King Solomon so well that Solomon himself recognizes it. God doesn’t specifically say why He chooses Jeroboam to lead the Northern Kingdom of Israel, but He does tell Jeroboam that he has an amazing opportunity here:
However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees 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. (verses 37–38, emphasis added)
The LORD has already promised that the line of David will always have someone on the throne, and now Jeroboam has that same opportunity for what will become the Northern kingdom! If he obeys the LORD we could end up in a situation where there is always someone from the line of David on the throne in Judah and always someone from the line of Jeroboam on the throne in Israel. The question is whether Jeroboam will obey, and the answer is that he won’t. As we’ll see when we get into the next chapter in 1 Kings, pretty much the first thing Jeroboam does when he becomes king is disobey God.
Though we won’t see that for a while on this blog, because I’ll be going back into Acts for a few chapters, before getting to that part of 1 Kings…
When I first came to the Old Testament, as a new Christian, I was shocked to learn that the nation ended up getting split in two. In fact, I spent much of my reading of the Old Testament history waiting for them to be reunited, because I assumed (wrongly) that they would be. I was even more surprised that the “bad” kingdom got to keep the name “Israel,” while the “good” kingdom ended up being named “Judah.” If anything I would have expected that the “good” kingdom would get to keep the name Israel. (And, of course, “good” and “bad” are very relative terms, here, but Israel never had a good king, whereas Judah did have some.) ↩︎