1 Kings 12
The first verse pretty much highlights the issues that cause the united 12 tribes of Israel to split so dramatically. Rehoboam went to Schechem to be crowned not Jerusalem. It was an ancent important place where Jacob and Joshua were buried and earlier abortive attempts to have a king happened (Judges 8:22-27). He went there because “all Israel” went there. Soon All Israel will reject him for Jeroboam causing the split between the 10 Northern tribes (who are then called Israel) and 2 Southern tribes – Judah.
Jeroboam had been Solomon’s advisor, and a man of standing. He had to flee Solomon. He comes back after Solomon’s death and sees the people under harsh labour – Samuel years before had prophecied this would happen if a man was King not God (1 Sam 8:17). The words used are similar to the slavery under the Egyptians – “heavy yoke” and “harsh labour”. Solomon had taken them under harsh rule, that God and Moses had delivered them from. Rehoboam has a chance as new King to do what was common to do at the start of a reign – lessen taxes, remit debts and set people free.
Rehoboam’s older advisers tell him to do just that. They would have served under David and Solomon’s earlier reign where the king was a servant leader serving the people, who are then servants. But Rehoboam seeks out his mates the younger advisers, the entitled “millenials” who had grown with him in luxury. They recommend a tougher approach using the phrase “heavy yoke” 3x and scorpions. Rather than the king being the first among equals he now is above all.
Although it is good to seek advice, this is bad advice from men, not prophetic insight. Human and divine action comes into play – it is part of God’s plan, but Rehoboam is still stiff necked and ill-judged in his leadership. The fragile political unity of the 12 tribes is split. The language here makes it Rehoboam’s 2 tribes are ripped like a cloth from Israel. What will come clear as the Davidic succession occurs in Judah and the north is more erratic in Kings, is that the prophetic promises rests with Judah while Israel will get so bad that after the exile, those that have stayed are so intermarried and theological off-beam they become the Samaritans. What a mess from following some bad advice.
Next Jeroboam, who is king in the north is worried his people will go to the Temple to worship God, so he sets up worship centres in Shechem, Bethel and Dan with golden calves (remember Aaron, while Moses was up Mt Sinai). He reinstitutes ancient practices from the areas. Why? He “thought to himself” v26 and then seeking advice v28. Again from wallies. Prov 13:10 tells us wisdom is found in those who takes advice Prov 13:10, but more importantly the fear of the Lord is the beginning o wisdom (Prov 9:10.
Even in recent times, national leaders have tried to coerce religion for their own ends. Hitler did it, duping most churches (although not all including Bonhoeffer). They love it when religious leaders endorse their policies, but cry keep out of politics when they don’t! We need Christians in politics to make a difference – but when we mix politics and religion we end up with politics!