The Kingdom Divided
1 Kings 12:2-20
And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it…

1. This chapter reveals one of the turning-points in Israel's history, for it is as true in the history of Israel as in that of any other people that there are periods comparatively insignificant, and hours as well, that are full of great events.

2. It had seemed to be one of the chief purposes of God to make Israel a great nation. That is the promise made to Abram. The nation seems to have been essential to the carrying out of God's purpose in giving a revelation and establishing His kingdom in the world. Truth does not gather momentum while it is propagated by an occasional teacher or prophet. Great institutions, educational, civil, and religious, such as can be developed only in a great nation, are necessary to make truth mighty, to give it power among the masses, and that volume which sets it moving over wide areas. The revelation, which had been sporadic in Israel throughout patriarchal times, now by means of the great civil and religious institutions of Israel as a nation — prophecy and the school of the prophets, the priesthood and the great religious festivals — gathers momentum and moves grandly on toward the fulfilment of the promise made to Abram.

3. But by this Scripture we are introduced to a condition of things that is startling. The very chosen instrument essential to the carrying out of God's purpose to bless and save the world — the Israelitish nation — is threatened with destruction. There is something violent in the very tones of the cry, "To your tents, O Israel." Where now is the nation through which God is to bless the world? Can His purpose be accomplished by these fragments?

4. A study of the actual course of history among these tribes would show that there were many natural causes leading to this division of the kingdom. Rehoboam was weak and wicked. He who will rule others must first learn to rule himself. The young men, probably sons of Solomon's chief officers, who had been trained at the royal court and were designed to be the officers of the succeeding king, had inherited the bitter hostility that had long existed, especially between the tribes of Judah and Ephraim; thinking themselves strong under the new king, they were ready to advise and help to carry out rash measures. There was no lack of occasion for dissension on the side of Rehoboam. On the other hand there can be little doubt that the taxes exacted of Israel were oppressive. Ephraim had always been jealous of and restive under Judah's rule. "To the house of Joseph — that is to Ephraim, with its adjacent tribes of Benjamin and Manasseh — had belonged all the chief rulers of Israel, down to the time of David: Joshua, the conqueror; Deborah, the prophetess; Gideon, the one regal spirit of the judges; Abimelech and Saul, the first kings; Samuel, the restorer of the people after the fall of Shiloh. It was natural with such an inheritance of glory that Ephraim always chafed under any rival supremacy." And when "the Lord refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah," the old jealousy was intensified and ready to burst forth on any pretext. Jeroboam had once lifted up his hand against King Solomon, and Solomon had attempted to kill him, and had driven him into Egypt. Weakness, wilfulness, and impetuosity on the part of the king and his advisers, all of which served to intensify an inherited jealousy of prerogative, were the influences at work on the one side. On the other a powerful people fired with a sense of injustice, with a powerful, ambitious, and unscrupulous leader — these certainly afforded causes for a disruption deep and irremediable.

5. But the prophet expressly tells us that this division is of God.

6. What was the real cause? The record makes it plain, and reveals at the same time God, the long suffering and the holy One. It was not that the king had fleeced them, as Samuel a century earlier had told them he would (1 Samuel 8:11-17). It was that they had rejected God, as God told Samuel they had, when they asked a king (1 Samuel 8:6-8).What are the lessons to be learned?

1. God gives opportunities to individuals and to nations even though He knows that they will not improve them. Jeroboam was justified in taking possession of the Ten Tribes. It was part of the Divine plan. He had been so instructed. But Jeroboam departed from God, and he has gone down in the sacred history as the man that made Israel to sin. Rehoboam had his opportunity also both before and after the division of the kingdom. He wasted it wickedly. Whether we use or abuse our opportunities they come to us, and God with and in them all, to work out His righteous will through us if we will, and, if not, to abandon us and to find a way for His will and purposes through others.

2. We may learn also that, however essential an institution may seem to be for carrying forward the purposes of God, if it fail it is doomed. The Israelitish nation, in order to express the Divine will and be a revelation of Jehovah, must be conscious of its dependence on Him. But this Israel had lost. There is no trace of the confidence or of the sense of dependence that appears in the song of .Moses at the Red Sea. The spiritual hold on Jehovah has relaxed.

3. God works in the actual condition of things. It is a mistake to suppose that God must wait for either the ideal man or the ideal nation. The ambitious Jeroboam and the weak Rehoboam are alike His agents. The revelation which shapes the conditions under which the kingdom of God cannot flourish may be as important as that which shows the conditions of its prosperity. "To your tents, O Israel: see to thine own house, David," is violent language. Jehovah will find other means for propagating and perpetuating His truth. "The Arabian traditions relate that in the staff on which Solomon leaned, and which supported him long after his death, there was a worm which was secretly gnawing it asunder." The worm — idolatry — has done its work.

(B. P. Raymond.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;)

WEB: It happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam lived in Egypt,

The Kingdom Divided
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