1 Kings 12 (NIV)
Israel Rebels Against Rehoboam
1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel (that is, the entire kingdom, all twelve tribes) had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”
5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away.
The negotiation at Shechem:
Although prophets, acting on instructions from God, might anoint individuals as kings, the authority of any persons so anointed had to be publicly acclaimed by those over whom they ruled, as in the case of Saul (1 Samuel 11:14-15), David over Judah (2 Sam. 2:4-7), David over all the tribes (2 Sam. 5:1-5), and Solomon (1 Kings 1:39-40). The northern tribes were ready to acclaim Rehoboam as their king, but only if he agreed to certain general conditions. The text has a clear critical slant, and makes Rehoboam look foolish, thereby justifying the establishment of the Northern Kingdom.
–Ziony Zevit, The Jewish Study Bible
6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.
7 They replied, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”
Off to a good start! Rehoboam goes first to his father’s wise men in the conference room, and they give him sound advice. But . . .
8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him.
. . . then he goes out for pizza and beer with his buds. Guess which advice will appeal to our young Rehoboam.
Then he consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”
10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “These people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”
12 Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, “Come back to me in three days.” 13 The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, 14 he followed the advice of the young men and said, “My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.
16 When all Israel (that is, the northern ten tribes only) saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:
“What share do we have in David,
what part in Jesse’s son?
To your tents, Israel!
Look after your own house, David!”
Here’s how The Message has this verse:
When all Israel realized that the king hadn’t listened to a word they’d said, they stood up to him and said,
Get lost, David! We’ve had it with you, son of Jesse! Let’s get out of here, Israel, and fast! From now on, David, mind your own business.
So the Israelites went home. 17 But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them.
Rehoboam says — “I’ll do it my way!’
We could ask — “How’s that working for you?!”
18 King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
20 When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.
It looks as if Jeroboam got the better deal — more land and more people. BUT (and this is hugely important!) Rehoboam has the Temple in Jerusalem, the center of Jewish life. It will stand the Southern Kingdom in good stead for several centuries.
We come to the idea of leadership again.
Rehoboam shows himself a poor leader by not taking the good advice he was given by people who knew both him and the situation very well. And Jeroboam sets up a way to keep his kingdom in good shape in the short term, while losing its true direction in the long term. Think of how many times you have seen these very same mistakes in leaders, both in the church and in the world. Christ showed us the best way to lead: by doing the Father’s will, by being a true servant, by giving His life for others.
21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—a hundred and eighty thousand able young men—to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.
22 But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: 23 “Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to all Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, 24 ‘This is what the LORD says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.’” So they obeyed the word of the LORD and went home again, as the LORD had ordered.
Golden Calves at Bethel and Dan
King Jeroboam sets up two idols in the Kingdom of Israel, one far north in Dan, the other far south in Bethel.
25 Then Jeroboam fortified Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. From there he went out and built up Peniel.
26 Jeroboam thought to himself, “The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. 27 If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam.”
28 After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.
Holy cow!! Choices and convenience for the people of Israel!
31 Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 32 He instituted a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, like the festival held in Judah, and offered sacrifices on the altar. This he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. And at Bethel he also installed priests at the high places he had made. 33 On the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a month of his own choosing, he offered sacrifices on the altar he had built at Bethel. So he instituted the festival for the Israelites and went up to the altar to make offerings.
Such a telling phrase — “a month of his own choosing”: To think that we can determine what is right in God’s eyes!
From the 1985 book Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Life, by Robert N. Bellah, et al :
Sheila Larson is a young nurse who has received a good deal of therapy and describes her faith as “Sheilaism.” This suggests the logical possibility of more than 235 million American religions, one for each of us. “I believe in God,” Sheila says “I am not a religious fanatic. [Notice at once that in our culture any strong statement of belief seems to imply fanaticism so you have to offset that.] I can’t remember the last time I went to church. My faith has carried me a long way. It’s Sheilism. Just my own little voice.” Sheila’s faith has some tenets beyond belief in God, though not many. In defining what she calls “my own Sheilaism,” she said: “It’s just to try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself. You know, I guess, take care of each other. I think God would want us to take care of each other.”
This reminds me of that infamous verse in Judges: “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” You know this strategy will not have a happy ending, for Jeroboam or for the Sheilas of the world. Praise God that while we are wandering, he seeks us out!
HERE is a better way than the ones chosen by Rehoboam, Jeroboam, the Israelites who worshiped the golden calves, Shiela, etc. “O Love that Will Not Let Me Go” by Indelible Grace. I have read that this was the favorite hymn of Oswald Chambers (author of My Utmost for His Highest).