“According to the eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)

By Bob Myhan

The Divided Kingdom Period

It was not God’s original intention for Israel to have an earthly king. It was to be a theocracy, rather than a monarchy; God was their king.

But when the people demanded a king, God gave them Saul, son of Kish, who began well but grew proud. God replaced him with David, a shepherd boy, whom God described as “a man after My own heart” (Acts 13:22). “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord as king instead of David his father, and prospered; and all Israel obeyed him” (1 Chron. 29:23).

But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites-- from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, "You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods." Solomon clung to these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, "Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant. Nevertheless I will not do it in your days, for the sake of your father David; I will tear it out of the hand of your son. However I will not tear away the whole kingdom; I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of my servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen." (1 Kings 11:9-13)

Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, all that he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? And the period that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place. (1 Kings 11:41-43)

About this time, God sent a prophet to Jeroboam, a military hero, to tell him that he would be king over Israel but he would only rule ten tribes not all twelve.

The man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor; and Solomon, seeing that the young man was industrious, made him the officer over all the labor force of the house of Joseph. Now it happened at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite met him on the way; and he had clothed himself with a new garment, and the two were alone in the field. Then Ahijah took hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and will give ten tribes to you (but he shall have one tribe for the sake of My servant David, and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel), because they have forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, Chemosh the god of the Moabites, and Milcom the god of the people of Ammon, and have not walked in My ways to do what is right in My eyes and keep My statutes and My judgments, as did his father David. However I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand, because I have made him ruler all the days of his life for the sake of My servant David, whom I chose because he kept My commandments and My statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand and give it to you--ten tribes. And to his son I will give one tribe, that My servant David may always have a lamp before Me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen for Myself, to put My name there. So I will take you, and you shall reign over all your heart desires, and you shall be king over Israel. Then it shall be, if you heed all that I command you, walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build for you an enduring house, as I built for David, and will give Israel to you.” (1 Kings 11:28-38)

But how did God “tear the kingdom away from” Solomon? He did it through the decision of Rehoboam [the son of Solomon] to raise taxes and the decision of the northern tribes to rebel (1 Kings 12:1-24). The respective reigns of Rehoboam and Jeroboam began ca. 931 BC.

The kingdom of Israel went immediately into idolatry. In an attempt to prevent the children of Israel from turning back to Rehoboam, Jeroboam instituted idol worship and alternate feast days, so the people would not miss the feasts that Jehovah had instituted (1 Kings 12:25-33). Thus, Jeroboam did not trust in the Lord but trusted in his own wisdom. The kingdom of Israel never had a good king. Jeroboam became a standard for wickedness among the kings who followed him (1 Kings 16:29-33; 22:51-53; 2 Kings 3:1-3). God’s longsuffering toward Israel came to an abrupt halt around 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1-18)

Unlike the kingdom of Israel, Judah had some good kings and some bad ones but the good ones never measured up to David. All of them—from Rehoboam to Zedekiah—more or less tolerated idolatry though a few—such as Josiah—instituted reforms. Both the northern and southern kingdoms had prophets sent to them by Jehovah. Judah’s treatment of her prophets was as bad as Israel’s treatment of hers (Matt. 21:33-41).

God’s longsuffering toward Judah came to an end ca. 586 BC. The last king of Judah was Zedekiah.

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord God of Israel. Moreover all the leaders of the priests and the people transgressed more and more, according to all the abominations of the nations, and defiled the house of the Lord which He had consecrated in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent warnings to them by His messengers, rising up early and sending them, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy. Therefore He brought against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, on the aged or the weak; He gave them all into his hand. And all the articles from the house of God, great and small, the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his leaders, all these he took to Babylon. Then they burned the house of God, broke down the wall of Jerusalem, burned all its palaces with fire, and destroyed all its precious possessions. And those who escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon, where they became servants to him and his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia, to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her Sabbaths. As long as she lay desolate she kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. (2 Chron. 36:11-21)

Though the people Judah would return after 70 years, the people of Israel never would.

[To be continued]