Upon Solomon’s death his son Rehoboam was crowned king.
All of the people gathered together and pleaded with him; “Please, lighten the load that your father put on us! If you do this we will serve you.”
Rehoboam told the people to give him three days to think about their request.
Rehoboam had had the wisest man in all the world for his father, but he was a very foolish man.
He asked the elders in his counsel what they thought he should do, and they thought it sounded very wise to lighten the load and secure the service of the people.
He dismissed the sage advice of these men and turned instead to the younger men. His peers urged him to rule the people even more harshly than his father had, and when Rehoboam stood before the people with his answer he boldly proclaimed;
“My father made you work hard, but I will make it harder. He beat you with whips, but I will use whips with pieces of sharp metal.”
The people were not happy. This was not a good king that they had to rule over them. They wanted a good king.
Word started going around that Jeroboam had returned from his trip to Egypt.
“We want him for our king!” the people announced, and so they crowned him king. Ten of the tribes wanted him as their king.
The other two tribes, Benjamin and Judah, were gathered by Rehoboam and were told to prepare for war. He was going to fight against the ten tribes that had followed Jeroboam.
But God sent a message to Rehoboam and told him to stop.
“Stop – don’t go into battle. Don’t fight against your brothers. This splitting of the tribes is my doing.”
So now Israel has been split into two kingdoms, never to reunite as one – the Northern kingdom with its ten tribes and the Southern Kingdom with its two tribes. Each with its own king ruling. Through the rest of our stories we will be following the kings from the Southern Kingdom, for that is the line that the Lord Jesus came through.
King Jeroboam quickly realized that he might lose the allegiance of his people if they journeyed to Jerusalem to make their sacrifices to the Lord, so he built golden calves in his territory for the people to worship instead. He also built shrines and made men priests that were not from the tribe of Levi, the only tribe that priests were to come from.
A messenger of God came to Jeroboam as he was standing near the altar to make an offering and the messenger called out to the altar;
“Altar! Altar! This is what the Lord has said; ‘Out of the line of David will be a son called Josiah. And on this altar he will sacrifice the priests who make offerings here and human bones will burn here. And this is a sign so you will know it is true, the altar will be split in two and the ashes will spill out.”
King Jeroboam was furious and he raised his arm to command for this messenger to be seized, but his hand shriveled and he could not pull it back. As he gazed at his hand in horror he saw the altar split in two and the ashes pour out just as the messenger had said. “Please,” King Jeroboam begged of the messenger, “pray that my hand will be restored.” The messenger prayed and the hand was restored but Jeroboam did not change his evil ways. Years and years will pass before we see the fulfillment of the prophet’s words about Josiah.
King Rehoboam did not do any better in his kingdom. He led his kingdom into idolatrous worship. King Rehoboam did evil because he did not set his heart on seeking the Lord.