What God had ordained, came about and this is how it happened.
Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s favoured officials who was told by the prophet Ahijah, in 1 Kings 11, that he was going to be God’s instrument in carrying out His judgments on Solomon, who, by now, was not particularly popular with his subjects. God even tempted Jeroboam with the promise that He would build a dynasty around him, equal to the one promised to David. The Lord undoubtedly had a smile on His face at the time because the conditions were the very same ‘keeping my statutes and commands’ that were the foundation of the covenant with Moses. God knows the heart of man and though He was gracious enough to offer this generous deal to Jeroboam, he knew that Jeroboam, along with everyone else born of mortal man, would slip up when it came to keeping his side of the bargain. That was the whole point of the covenant with Moses – sinful man was (and still is) incapable of fulfilling the conditions and will always fall short. It’s just as well that a better Covenant, the New Covenant, with different conditions, was to come along later!
On Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam succeeded him. He knew that, because of Solomon’s unpopularity towards the end of his reign, rebellion was in the air, so he took advice. Unfortunately, rather than listening to the wise elders, he took his advice from the young men he’d grown up with.
It was bad advice, resulting in a rebellion by Israel, the northern part of the kingdom, which, in accordance with God’s pronouncement, broke away from the ‘United Kingdom’ and, in accordance with the prophecy, made Jeroboam their King. The parting words are given in 1 Kings 12:16: ‘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!‘
Rehoboam was peeved. He summoned 180,000 fighting men to make war against the breakaway state of Israel. A bad idea, as he had to be reminded by Shemaiah the prophet that this whole thing was the Lord’s doing, so a civil war would not be his best move. So he was left to take stock of the situation. All that remained for King Rehoboam was the house of Judah (also including the smaller tribe of Benjamin) in the south, with Jerusalem as the capital, but if he only knew what was going to happen ‘up north’ he would have been counting his blessings!
It wasn’t long before Jeroboam too broke God’s covenant, ruining any chance he had to found a dynasty with God’s blessings. As a result the kingdom of Israel went from bad to worse. Jeroboam set the trend by making two golden calves and set them up as gods in Bethel and Dan saying, in 1 Kings 12:28: ‘Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt‘. He did this in order to stop the citizens of Israel from making pilgrimages to the temple in Jerusalem, which was now in ‘enemy’ territory. He went on to build further pagan shrines and ordain dodgy priests, piling sin upon sin and battering away at the Second Commandment until God could stay silent no longer. It was not surprising that Ahijah, the very same prophet who had set him up as King, should prophesy again with these words, in 1 Kings 14:9-10: ‘You have done more evil than all who lived before you … I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam’. There are hints concerning the nature of this punishment in verse 15: ‘He will uproot Israel from this good land that He gave to their forefathers and scatter them beyond the River …’.
This prophecy was put on hold while subsequent rulers of Israel went from bad to worse, digging themselves further and further into the mire, with sordid tales of murder, massacre, idolatry and general mayhem. Nadab succeeded Jeroboam and carried on in his father’s evil ways for a few months until he and every last member of the doomed family dynasty were slaughtered by Baasha, who was to grab the throne of Israel for himself. Baasha continued in the same evil traditions, lasting for 24 years and, like Jeroboam, incurring God’s wrath with a curse on his family that came to pass when Elah, his son and successor, was killed (along with the rest of his family) by Zimri, who was to succeed him. Zimri’s reign lasted for a mercifully short 7 days, enough time though to deserve his very own set of curses from God. After him came Omri, who managed to sin more than all of his predecessors, so he must have been an interesting fellow. He also made Samaria the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. Then came Ahab …
(This is an abridged extract from Steve’s book Outcast Nation)