1 Kings 12: Lessons from Rehoboam and Jeroboam Regarding the Signs and Warnings that Come from Rebellious Leaders

Introduction: 1 Kings 12 through 14 describe the evil actions of two leaders, who led Israel into division and then idolatry. Through his evil actions, Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, divided Israel into two nations. He was then left to rule just the southern kingdom of Judah from 931 to 913 B.C. Likewise, through his evil actions, Jeroboam, Solomon’s disgruntled former servant, caused 10 tribes to break away and form the northern Kingdom of Israel, which he ruled from 931 to 910 B.C. Along with 2 Chronicles 10 through 12, these chapters also record the sad royal adoption of idolatry in first the northern kingdom of Israel (1 Kgs. 12:25-14:20) and then the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kgs. 14:21-31). Because of their evil actions, Israel would remain divided until and through its future captivity and exile at the hands of foreign powers. Through the mistakes of these leaders, God reveals seven signs and warnings regarding foolish leaders.

First, after Solomon’s death, the people complained to Rehoboam regarding the forced labor and taxes that Solomon imposed upon them to build up the nation. In response to their complaints, Rehoboam wisely consulted with his elders. Yet, when the elders encouraged him to address the people’s suffering, he then rejected their wise counsel. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God warns that a foolish leader rejects the Spirit-led advice of elders. Second, Rehoboam then sought out the counsel of his young friends and servants, who appealed to his pride and urged him to show an iron fist towards the disgruntled people. From Rehoboam’s mistake, God warns that a foolish leader listens to those who promote pride or oppression. Third, in response to their complaints, Rehoboam then threatened the people with even greater hardships than they experienced under Solomon. This ignited the people with rage. From Rehoboam’s mistakes, God warns that a foolish leader acts with cruelty or without love towards others. Fourth, Jeroboam hated Solomon after being forced into exile. He then incited the people’s anger to kill one of Rehoboam’s servants and then to divide the nation into two kingdoms. From his mistakes, God warns that a foolish leader is unforgiving and sows division or rebellion. Fifth, in response to Jeroboam’s rebellion, Rehoboam tried and failed to stop it using force. Through his High Priest, he would have known that God warned in advance of this punishment as a response to Solomon’s worship of pagan gods and his building of pagan places of worship. Instead of leading the nation in repentance, Rehoboam thought that he could prevent God’s prophecy from coming true through force. Through his mistake, God warns that a foolish leader is unrepentant and uses threats to impose his will. Sixth, to prevent the people from returning back to Jerusalem and embracing a unified Israel, Jeroboam built golden caves and unauthorized places of worship in northern Israel. In response to his actions, ten tribes openly embraced idolatry. From Jeroboam’s evil actions, God warns that a foolish leader embraces idolatry or causes others to stumble. Finally, Jeroboam created a counterfeit priesthood and his unholy worship practices to keep the people from worshiping Yahweh in the manner He commanded. From Jeroboam’s evil acts, God warns that a foolish leader does not fear Him and instead embraces Satan’s counterfeit to God’s Word.

1. A Rebellious Leader Rejects the Spirit-Led Advice of Elders. 1 Kgs. 12:1-8.

  • King Rehoboam rejects the wise counsel of his elders to show kindness to his people. Before the northern tribes would accept Rehoboam as their new king, the people asked him to change Solomon’s forced labor and taxation practices. Rehoboam at first wisely sought the advice of Israel’s elders. Yet, he rejected their counsel when they wisely urged him to show compassion: “1 Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. Now when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it, he was living in Egypt (for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of King Solomon). Then they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.’ Then he said to them, ‘Depart for three days, then return to me.’ So the people departed. King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, ‘How do you counsel me to answer this people?’ Then they spoke to him, saying, ‘If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.’ But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him.” (1 Kgs. 12:1-8). Even though Jerusalem was now the nation’s capital, the 12 tribes still met at Shechem. Abraham and Jacob both worshiped at this sacred place (Gen. 12:6; 33:18-20). Joseph was also buried there (Josh. 24:32). It was the place where the tribes met for periodic covenant renewal ceremonies (Gen. 12:6-7; 33:18-20; Josh. 24:1-27, 32). This was also a central place near Mount Ephraim where the Jews had gathered to select leaders since Abimelech (Jdgs. 9:6). Jeroboam, the Ephraimite, previously rebelled against Solomon (1 Kgs. 11:26). He was a populist whose name means “he who enlarges the people”. According to Jewish tradition, he opposed Solomon’s forced labor practices that he used to build up Jerusalem's infrastructure. After learning that God intended to give part of the kingdom to Jeroboam to punish Solomon for his idolatry, Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam. Yet, Jeroboam then fled to Egypt (1 Kgs. 11:40). Now that Solomon was dead, Jeroboam returned to lead the northern tribes in their complaints against Solomon’s forced labor and heavy taxation requirements (1Kgs. 4:7; 5:13; 9:22; 11:28). Solomon’s use of forced labor was one of the many consequences that Samuel warned would happen if the people rejected God’s will and demanded to be governed by a king: “He said, ‘This will be the procedure of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and place them for himself in his chariots and among his horsemen and they will run before his chariots.”’ (1 Sam. 8:11). Because of his pride, Rehoboam rejected the advice of his elders to address the people’s complaints. He feared that if he were to lessen Solomon’s forced labor practices or reduce the amount of taxation, his wealth, power, and influence would be reduced.

  • King Rehoboam failed to follow Solomon’s example by praying for God’s wisdom. After his brother Adonijah’s failed coup d'etat, a young Solomon also faced a doubtful nation when he assumed power (1 Kgs. 1:5-53). After leading the nation in repentance, he then humbly asked God for the wisdom to lead the people: “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” (1 Kgs. 3:9). Despite countless other brothers through Solomon’s 1,000 wives who would have coveted his power, Rehoboam did not even think to consult God in prayer. Nor did he accept that his true power and right to be king came from God. Like many people, he also denied the power of prayer for answering problems. God promises His wisdom for any who ask in faith (Jam. 1:5). Do you petition God in prayer for answers to the dilemmas that you face each day?

  • King Rehoboam also rejected Solomon’s and Job’s pleas that he listen to wise counsel. Rehoboam also rejected his own father’s Proverbs on God’s wisdom: “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction . . . ;” (Prov. 1:8). “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding,” (Prov. 4:1). In his proverbs, Solomon warned Rehoboam to listen to Spirit-led counsel of his elders and not rely upon his own understanding: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man is he who listens to counsel.” (Prov. 12:15). “Listen to counsel and accept discipline, that you may be wise the rest of your days.” (Prov. 19:20). “Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” (Prov. 8:33). Job also gave this same advice in his writings: “Wisdom is with aged men, with long life is understanding.” (Job 12:12). “I thought age should speak, and increased years should teach wisdom.” (Job. 32:37). In addition to reading the Word and praying, do you seek advice from wise Spirit-led elders in your church?

  • Like the wise counselors, Jesus is compassionate to those who suffer from oppression. The elders gave Spirit-led advice because they urged Rehoboam to show compassion toward the people. As our example, Jesus showed us that a leader should always have compassion when people are suffering: “Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36; Mk. 6:34). “I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat.” (Matt. 8:2). When you see people suffering or when people complain to you, do you show compassion or indifference towards them?

  • A wise leader serves God’s people and not him or herself. If Rehoboam were interested in being a Spirit-led leader, he would have looked for ways to serve his people. Again as our example, Jesus revealed that He came to serve others, not Himself: “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28). Do you seek to serve God’s people? Or, do you live to serve yourself?

2. A Rebellious Leader Listens to Those Who Promote Pride or Oppression. 1 Kgs. 12:9-11.

  • King Rehoboam listened to the foolish advice of his servants, who advocated oppression. After rejecting the wise advice of Israel’s elders, Rehoboam sought out the advice of his young servants. His young servants knew Rehoboam and appealed to his vanity and pride by urging him to use oppression in response to the people’s complaints: “So he said to them, ‘What counsel do you give that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?’ 10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! 11 Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’’” (1 Kgs. 12:9-11). Rehoboam was about 40 years old (1 Kgs. 14:21). His contemporaries had grown rich under Solomon’s taxation system. Thus, out of their own self-interest, they appealed to Solomon’s pride to reject the people’s demands. They further urged him to tax the people even more.

Hans Holbein (1497/8-1543) “Rehoboam’s Arrogance” (1530)1

  • King Rehoboam also rejected Solomon’s plea that he reject evil counsel. Rehoboam’s servants offered wicked advice because they lacked humility or compassion for the people. They further led Rehoboam astray by building up his pride and oppressive instincts. Rehoboam should have heeded Solomon’s advice to reject the counsel of sinners: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” (Prov. 1:10). “Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man,” (Prov. 22:24). “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them;” (Eph. 5:11). Are you surrounding yourself with people who give godly advice?

  • King Rehoboam also rejected David’s example of humility. If he were wise, Rehoboam would have rejected pride and vanity as his grandfather David did: “A Song of Ascents, of David. O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.” (Ps. 131:1) David also warned: “And You save an afflicted people; but Your eyes are on the haughty whom You abase.” (2 Sam. 22:28). “So the common man will be humbled and the man of importance abased, the eyes of the proud also will be abased.” (Is. 5:15). Are you looking to glorify yourself or God through your actions? What advice are you giving others in this area?

3. A Rebellious Leader Acts With Cruelty or Without Love Towards Others. 1 Kgs. 12:12-15.

  • King Rehoboam rejects the cries of his people and threatens greater oppression. Rehoboam responded to the people’s complaints by threatening to punish them with labor and tax requirements far worse than any sacrifice that they had to make under Solomon: “12 Then Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, ‘Return to me on the third day.’ 13 The king answered the people harshly, for he forsook the advice of the elders which they had given him, 14 and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, ‘My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’ 15 So the king did not listen to the people; for it was a turn of events from the Lord, that He might establish His word, which the Lord spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” (1 Kgs. 12:12-15). Solomon convinced the people to accept his taxation and service requirements by wisely creating a shared vision for the Temple and other national projects. Rehoboam presented no justification for the continued heavy taxation and service requirements. Because he had no love for the people, Rehoboam lashed out at them for their requests. As king, he saw it as his role to make demands of them. Out of cruelty, he further thought that he needed to teach the people a lesson by imposing even more severe requirements on them. God used Rehoboam’s foolishness to fulfill Ahijah’s prophecy (1 Kgs. 11:29-39).

Rehoboam rejects the cries of his people2

Rehoboam promised even greater repression in response to the people’s complaints3

  • King Rehoboam rejects Solomon’s counsel against stirring up people with harsh words. Among his many mistakes, Rehoboam ignored his father’s advice not to stir the people up in anger with harsh words: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Prov. 15:1). “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger calms a dispute.” (Prov. 15:18). “Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a contentious man to kindle strife.” (Prov. 26:21). “An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.” (Prov. 29:21). “The poor man utters supplications, but the rich man answers roughly.” (Prov. 18:23). Believers are also warned about the evil that can be done through harsh words: “But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.” (Jam. 3:8). Church leaders must also be gentle and not quarrelsome in dealing with others (1 Tim. 3:3). When others disappoint you, do you show love and control your tongue from hurting them?

  • King Rehoboam violated God’s law by treating the Jews like Egyptian slaves. Rehoboam also treated the people like an Egyptian pharaoh by threatening forced labor to punish the people: “The Egyptians compelled the sons of Israel to labor rigorously; and they made their lives bitter with hard labor in mortar and bricks and at all kinds of labor in the field, all their labors which they rigorously imposed on them.” (Ex. 1:13-14). God warned His leaders not to place His people under the same bondage that He had freed them from by delivering them from Egypt: “For they are My servants whom I brought out from the land of Egypt; they are not to be sold in a slave sale. You shall not rule over him with severity, but are to revere your God.” (Lev. 25:42-43). If you have others that serve you or look up to you, are you kind and helpful in lessening their loads?

  • God will punish rulers who use force and violence against their people. Through Ezekiel, God later promised to punish the leaders like Rehoboam who mistreated the people with threats of force instead of helping the people: “Those who are sickly you have not strengthened, the diseased you have not healed, the broken you have not bound up, the scattered you have not brought back, nor have you sought for the lost; but with force and with severity you have dominated them.” (Ezek. 34:4).

4. A Rebellious Leader is Unforgiving and Sows Division or Rebellion. 1 Kgs. 12:16-20.

  • In response to King Rehoboam’s cruelty, the nation of Israel was divided into two. Rehoboam’s threats allowed Jeroboam to incite the northern tribes into killing one of Rehoboam’s servants and then breaking away to form a separate kingdom: “16 When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, ‘What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; to your tents, O Israel! Now look after your own house, David!’ So Israel departed to their tents. 17 But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam made haste to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 It came about when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. None but the tribe of Judah followed the house of David.” (1 Kgs. 12:16-20). By listening to foolish advice, Rehoboam surrounded himself with wicked men. “If a ruler pays attention to falsehood, all his ministers become wicked.” (Prov. 29:12). Rehoboam sent Adoram, the head of forced labor, to negotiate (1 Kgs. 4:6; 5:14). He apparently shared Rehoboam’s harsh tactics. The people responded by killing him and revolting against Rehoboam’s rule. Yet, the people also sinned by failing to pray and showing unforgiveness in their actions.

The northern tribes break away from Judah, and David’s Kingdom becomes divided4

  • Those who formant division and rebellion are worthless and act under Satan’s control. While inciting the people into rebellion, Jeroboam quoted from a man named Sheba, who previously tried to divide Israel against David. God called this man “worthless”: “Now a worthless fellow happened to be there whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite; and he blew the trumpet and said, ‘We have no portion in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!’” (2 Sam. 20:1). He was also acting under Satan’s control in inciting rebellion. Satan’s goal has always been to break down order through rebellion. His goal is to create chaos and misery. Satan first led a third of the angels in rebellion against God’s rule (Rev. 12:3-9). He then led Eve to rebel against God’s rules (Gen. 3:1-4). He then lead Adam and Eve to rebel against each other (Gen. 3:16). Satan also becomes the father of those who rebel (Jo. 8:44). Jesus once quoted a prophesy: “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” (Mk. 14:23). When influenced by Satan, the corrupt “despise authority.” (2 Pet. 2:10). Solomon later said that rebellion was the sign of an “evil man.” (Prov. 17:11). According to Paul, rebellion is also part of the spirit of “the prince of the power of the air.” (Eph. 2:2). Samuel also said that: “. . . rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft . . .” (1 Sam. 15:23). After leaving Egypt, the Jews’ lack of faith caused them to repeatedly rebel against God and His appointed leader Moses (Nu. 14:22). As a result of the Jews’ repeated refusal to obey and have faith, God eventually banished them to spend 40 years wandering in the desert (Nu. 14:34). For everything good and holy, Satan has created a counterfeit to deceive people. If God’s perfect government leads to peace and harmony (1 Tim. 2:1-2), rebellion only brings strife, death, and misery.

  • Jeroboam exploited pre-existing divisions within the tribes to divide the nation. Tensions between the tribes dated back to Jacob’s dysfunctional family of 12 boys through four different mothers. Jacob created jealousy and competition within the tribes when he favored Joseph and Benjamin over his 10 other sons. These tensions most likely laid dormant during the tribes’ 400 years of oppression in Egypt. Yet, these tensions came to the surface when the 12 tribes competed for influence after they settled in the Promised Land. Pride and coveting drove the three tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah to fight to gain supremacy. During the time period of the judges, the tribe of Ephraim tried to assert its dominance over Israel. Jeroboam, as an Ephraimite, was prideful and felt entitled to power over the tribes for at least three reasons. First, Joseph, the patriarch of his tribe, had saved the 12 tribes from death by bringing them to Egypt. Jacob then switched the birth order of Joseph’s two oldest children, Manasseh and Ephraim, to make the second born Ephraim the firstborn in terms of power and prestige (Gen. 48:13, 17-20; 41:50-51; Nu. 13:8, 16). Second, Joshua, the Jews’ leader in their conquest of the Promised Land, was a member of the Ephraim tribe (Nu. 13:8; 14:6-9). Third, during the time period of the judges, the tribe of Ephraim guarded the ark in its territory and hosted all sacrifices and the three yearly festivals for the nation (Josh. 18:1). In other words, it was the de facto capital of the 12 tribes. Thus, elders from the tribe of Ephraim argued with Gideon from the tribe of Manasseh out of jealousy after his soldiers defeated the Midianites without involving Ephraim in the battle (Jdgs. 8:1). The elders from Ephraim later confronted a judge named Jephthah after he also failed to consult with them before fighting the Ammonites (Jdgs. 12:1-3). When Saul became Israel’s first king, he also used his power to place cronies from his tribe of Benjamin in all the positions of power. When David became a threat, he used the threat of their loss of power to try to turn the tribe of Benjamin against David (1 Sam. 22:7) After Saul’s death, Judah was the only tribe to back David because others wanted to reign supreme (2 Sam. 2:10-11). The tribes then fought a civil war for seven years to determine who should lead (2 Sam. 2:12-4:12). David’s victory gave the tribe of Judah control of Israel for 80 years. David reigned for 40 years (1 Kgs. 2:11), and Solomon reigned for 40 years (1 Kgs. 11:42). As an Ephraimite, Jeroboam believed that Judah’s 80-year claim to leading Israel was nothing next to the hundreds of years in which his tribe had led the 12 tribes. Yet, his mistake was ignoring that it was God’s right to pick who would lead next.

  • The people ignored Solomon’s advice to be calm when they disagreed with a ruler. Instead of listening to Jeroboam’s calls for rebellion, the people should have listened to Solomon’s advice to be patient when faced with a ruler who offends: “If the ruler’s temper rises against you, do not abandon your position, because composure allays great offenses. There is an evil I have seen under the sun, like an error which goes forth from the ruler--” (Ecc. 10:4-5). “By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue breaks the bone.” (Prov. 25:15). Are you patient with leaders you disagree with?

  • Unite others in the Body of Christ. Unlike Jeroboam, believers are called upon to act with one accord as the Spirit leads the body. “so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.” (Ro. 12:5). “Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread.” (1 Cor. 10:17). “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (1 Cor. 12:12). “But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’” (1 Cor. 12:20-21). “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). You must also be motivated by love when you act with others: “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). Jeroboam did not act with love. Do your actions divide others for your glory?

5. A Rebellious Leader is Unrepentant and Uses Threats to Impose His Will. 1 Kgs. 12:21-24.

  • King Rehoboam failed to re-unite the broken nation through brutal force. Despite knowing that the division of Israel was God’s punishment for Solomon’s idolatry, Rehoboam failed to lead the nation into repentance. Instead, he tried and failed to stop God’s prophesy from coming true by using of his army to brutally impose his will: “21 Now when Rehoboam had come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men who were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 ‘Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin and to the rest of the people, saying, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.’’’ So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord.” (1 Kgs. 12:21-24). In response to his pride, God reduced Rehoboam’s nation from 12 mighty tribes to just two. His kingdom would be limited to the territories of Judah and Benjamin, the two southern tribes (2 Chron. 11:3; 14:8). Simeon was previously given land in the southern section of Judah’s territory (Josh. 19:1-9). And the tribe of Benjamin was split between the two kingdoms. Elsewhere, we are told that Simeon also rejected Rehoboam and went north to join with the northern tribes (1 Chron. 12:23-25; 2 Chron. 15:9; 34:6). Thus, through his arrogance, Rehoboam lost 10 tribes. In birth order, these included: (1) Reuben, (2) Simeon, (3) Zebulun, (4) Issachar, (5) Dan, (6) Gad, (7) Asher, (8) Naphtali, (9) Manasseh, and (10) Ephraim. The tribe of Levi was originally scattered throughout all the lands to serve everyone (Josh. 21:1-42). Yet, Jeroboam refused to use them as priests. Thus, they soon migrated to Judah after Israel was divided (2 Chron. 11:13-16).

The Jews fight a civil war and become divided between Rehoboam and Jeroboam5

  • King Rehoboam could not use force to overcome God’s judgment upon Israel. Rehoboam failed in his efforts to use his army to suppress the rebels. God had previously told Solomon that he would tear his kingdom from him and give it to one of his servants: “So the LORD said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant.” (1 Kgs. 11:11.) Solomon did not repent. Thus, through the prophet Ahijah, God then told Solomon’s servant Jeroboam that He would give him control over 10 of the 12 tribes of Israel: “but I will take the kingdom from his son’s hand and give it to you, even ten tribes.” (1 Kgs. 11:35). Yet, to keep God’s promise to David, God promised that this would not happen until after Solomon’s death: “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.” (1 Kgs. 11:12). Even if Rehoboam did not know God’s Word, his High Priest likely warned him about God’s prophecy. God might have delayed His judgment if Rehoboam had led the nation in repentance and removed all of the idolatrous temples that Solomon built for his foreign wives. Rehoboam instead foolishly thought that he could prevent God’s Word from coming true through force. In the end, God’s prophet Shemaiah convinced Rehoboam and his troops to back down.

  • Saul and Solomon also foolishly tried to use force to keep God’s Word from coming true. King Rehoboam was not the first to think he could use force to prevent God’s Word from coming true. Saul tried to kill David to prevent the prophecy of David becoming king from coming true (e.g., 1 Sam. 19:1, 9). Having been told of the prophecy that Jeroboam would divide his great kingdom, Solomon also tried to prevent God’s prophecy from coming true by trying to kill him (1 Kgs. 11:40). God’s Word always comes true: “The LORD of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,”’ (Is. 14:24). Yet, He may delay His judgment or forgive when the people repent (Ezek. 12:25). The Church knows what will happen in the end times. Thus, it should promote church and civil leaders who preach repentance.

  • Solomon lamented that he labored in vain for a kingdom his son would soon destroy. Knowing God’s prophecy, Solomon lamented that he labored to build up a mighty kingdom in vain. God would soon wash it away like a sand castle when his son took power: “Thus I hated all the fruit of my labor for which I had labored under the sun, for I must leave it to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool? Yet he will have control over all the fruit of my labor for which I have labored by acting wisely under the sun. This too is vanity.” (Ecc. 2:18-19).

6. A Rebellious Leader Embraces Idolatry or Causes Others to Stumble. 1 Kgs. 12:25-30.

  • King Jeroboam becomes King of Israel, and immediately embraces idolatry. Even though God gave Jeroboam the chance to lead the 10 tribes of northern Israel, Jeroboam created fake golden calf idols and worship centers to keep the Jews from worshiping God in His Temple in Jerusalem: “25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel. 26 Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.’ 28 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, ‘It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.’ 29 He set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.” (1 Kgs. 12:25-30). Jeroboam is infamous in the Bible because he led an entire nation into idolatry all out of a misplaced belief that he needed to do this to preserve his power: “When He had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel away from following the LORD and made them commit a great sin.” (2 Kgs. 17:21). He also took steps to prevent people from being able to travel to Judah. He further fortified Shechem, the northern capital (1 Kgs. 12:25). He also built up Penuel east of the River Jordan to assert his control over the Jewish territories in modern day Jordan. Thus, he began a process of spiritual decline that would culminate in Israel’s exile to Assyria (2 Kings 17:20-23).

Jeroboam instituted idol worship in his kingdom6

  • King Jeroboam ignored God’s warnings against idols and worshiping golden calves. God’s Second Commandment expressly prohibited the Jews from using idols to worship Him or any other alleged deity: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; . . ..” (Ex. 20:4-6; Dt. 5:8-10). King Jeroboam not only violated the Second Commandment, he did so in the exact same way that God condemned when Aaron built the golden calf and said that it represented God: “They have quickly turned aside from the way which I commanded them. They have made for themselves a molten calf, and have worshiped it and have sacrificed to it and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!’” (Ex. 32:8, 4; Dt. 9:12). Jeroboam had just returned to Israel after years of exile in Egypt. Pharaoh had even given him a sister-in-law as a pagan wife (1 Kgs 11:19-20). Like Solomon, Jeroboam’s pagan wife led his heart astray. He incorporated the Egyptian belief that a person must see a god to worship it. Yet, God expressly prohibited this form of worship.

  • King Jeroboam also ignored God’s warnings to let Him pick His place of worship. At the southern end of his kingdom, Jeroboam put one false center of worship in Beth-el, 11 miles north of Jerusalem in the divided territory of Benjamin (1 Kgs. 12:29; Josh. 18:11-13, 22). He was most likely able to manipulate the Jews into believing that this was a proper worship location because Jacob worshiped there (Gen. 28:10-22; 35:1-15). At the northern end of his kingdom, he put a worship center in the city of Dan, located today in southern Lebanon (1 Kgs. 1:29). He most likely picked this as a second location because the rebellious Jews previously created a pagan worship center there during the time period of the Judges (Jdgs. 18:30-31). Although Jerusalem thought that his actions were politically astute, God warned the Jews through Moses that they could only worship in the appointed place that He selected: “But you shall seek the LORD at the place which the LORD your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come . . . then it shall come about that the place in which the LORD your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the LORD.” (Dt. 12:5, 11). The Jews could not do this in any cultic place that they found. Offerings could only be made in the place that God selected: “Be careful that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every cultic place you see, but in the place which the LORD chooses in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.” (Dt. 12:13-14). Thus, Jeroboam’s acts were offensive to God.

  • By embracing idolatry, King Jeroboam squandered his God-given chance to succeed. Although Jeroboam was an evil man, God gave the 10 northern tribes the same conditional promise to succeed that He gave to Solomon. If they kept His Commandments and statutes, they would succeed as a nation (1 Kgs. 2:3-4; 3:14; 11:38). Sadly, Jeroboam and every future leader of northern Israel was evil and rejected God’s laws. Thus, God previously revealed that northern Israel would not last forever (1 Kgs. 11:39). The house of David would ultimately rule over all 12 tribes (Ezek. 37:15-28).

  • Idolatry puts a believer in communion with demons. An idol is any physical thing to which you devote yourself. Although idols like money have no real power by themselves, the unbridled desire for these things causes addiction and puts a person in communion with demonic forces: “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons and not to God; and I do not want you to become sharers in demons.” (1 Cor. 10:19-20). God will never leave or forsake a believer (Heb. 13:5; Dt. 31:6). Yet, God cannot stop you if you choose to give into an addiction by listening to the demons over the Holy Spirit. Ask yourself what you desire most. If your answer is something material or the flesh, you are listening to the counsel of demons.

  • Idolatrous rulers may stumble and pull believers off of their walks. Paul warned that merely associating with an idolater (i.e., someone trapped with an addiction) can cause the believer to be pulled off his or her walk. “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler-- not even to eat with such a one.” (1 Cor. 5:11). “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Cor. 15:3). You can also cause others to stumble in your walk through your own idolatry. You must: “take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” (1 Cor. 8:9). If merely associating with an idolater can cause you to stumble, the risk is even greater when your leader is an idolater. That person can cause any person or group of people under his or her authority to be led astray by his or her bad example.

7. A Rebellious Leader Does Not Fear God and Embraces Satan’s Counterfeit. 1 Kgs. 12:31-33

  • King Jeroboam cemented his reign with a counterfeit priesthood and counterfeit worship. In addition to creating idols and unauthorized worship centers, Jeroboam created a counterfeit priesthood and religious practices to keep the Jews away from God’s Temple: “31 And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi. 32 Jeroboam instituted a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month, like the feast which is in Judah, and he went up to the altar; thus he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves which he had made. And he stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33 Then he went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and he instituted a feast for the sons of Israel and went up to the altar to burn incense.” (1 Kgs. 12:31-33). Jeroboam’s idolatry and his two unauthorized worship centers caused the Levite priests to flee southward into Judah along with other true believers (2 Chron. 11:13-17). Jeroboam responded by creating an unauthorized priesthood that was not from the tribe of Levi (1 Kgs. 12:31). He also created his own festival to replace the Feast of Tabernacles. There, his counterfeit priests sacrificed calves associated with the Canaanite gods El and Baal (1 Kgs. 12:32-33).

  • Jeroboam’s non-Levite priesthood violated God’s law. In addition to his idolatry and unauthorized worship centers, Jeroboam violated God’s law by appointing a non-Levite priesthood to carry out his counterfeit religion. God repeatedly stated that only the Levites could be priests under the Mosaic law: “So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons that they may keep their priesthood, but the layman who comes near shall be put to death.” (Nu. 3:10). “You shall put them on Aaron your brother and on his sons with him; and you shall anoint them and ordain them and consecrate them, that they may serve Me as priests.” (Ex. 28:41). “You shall gird them with sashes, Aaron and his sons, and bind caps on them, and they shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute. So you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.” (Ex. 29:9). Thus, with each step into rebellion against God, Jeroboam took further steps into evil for both himself and all of the 10 northern tribes.

  • Jeroboam’s unauthorized feasts also violated God’s law. Among other festivals, God previously required the Jews to observe the Feast of Booths / Tabernacles / Sukkot during the seventh month, Tisri, at the Temple in Jerusalem (Ex. 34:22-23; Lev. 23:33-36, 39-40). Jeroboam changed God’s Word by holding this festival on the eighth month, Marcheshvan, and in the non-authorized location in Beth-el (1 Kgs. 11:32).

  • Jeroboam’s unauthorized sacrifices also violated God’s law. Jeroboam also performed the sacrifices himself (1 Kgs. 12:33). This also violated God’s law, which separated the roles of the priests and civil leaders to prevent the consolidation of power. Through the Levite priests, God later condemned King Uzziah of Judah when he tried to do the same thing: “They opposed Uzziah the king and said to him, ‘It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD, but for the priests, the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense. Get out of the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful and will have no honor from the LORD God.”’ (2 Chr. 26:18).

  • Jeroboam’s unauthorized religion was an abomination to God. If the people had read Solomon’s proverbs, they would have known that God would not listen to their prayers through their counterfeit religion: “He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Prov. 28:9). Thus, they prayed in vain.

  • Jeroboam’s unauthorized religion led to the death of his nation. Solomon warned: “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). The northern tribes’ decision to live outside of God’s plan ultimately led to their extinction as a nation. As part of the Second Commandment, God warns that He will punish both idolaters and their descendants (Ex. 20:3-6; Dt. 5:7-10). Idolaters are also cursed (Dt. 27:15). An idolater who has not repented and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior is not only cursed to struggle and lead a life of desperation, that person is also disqualified from entering heaven (Ex. 22:20; Dt. 13:6, 10; 1 Cor. 6:9-10). “For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Eph. 5:5; Rev. 2:14).

  • God will punish people who lead His people astray. Leaders like Jeroboam are also subject to even greater punishment when they lead others astray: ‘“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!’ declares the LORD.” (Jer. 23:1; 12:10; 50:6). Thus, if you are a leader, be careful to teach all of God’s Word and not to alter it to fit your personal beliefs. Teach others to serve God as He commands.

  • Be wary of false leaders who don’t fear God and refuse to follow God’s Word. Throughout history, there have been many false leaders who have led God’s people into rebellion against His Word. Many twist God’s Word to start counterfeit religions: “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15). “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.” (Matt. 24:11, 24). Thus, you must test every person who seeks to guide you on your walk with Christ: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 Jo. 4:1; 1 Thess. 5:21). A common false doctrine today is the rejection of the Ten Commandments as God’s standard of morality. Jesus was the “I AM” who gave the Ten Commandments to Moses at Mount Horeb (Ex. 3:14; Jo. 8:58). He wants you to keep His Commandments out of love, not obligation: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15; 21). Rejecting the Ten Commandments as a standard for moral conduct will not cause you to lose your salvation as a believer. Yet, living outside the protections of the Ten Commandments places you outside of God’s protections and His blessings. If you reject the protections of the Ten Commandments, you reject His shield from the evil one (Prov. 30:5). You will be unprotected from the devil’s fiery darts and temptations (Eph. 6:10). A church leader who refuses to teach on the Ten Commandments or a civil leader who refuses to follow them can also lead people astray.

Jeroboam’s institutionalized idolatry stumbled generations of future rulers7

  • Satan seeks to place you into bondage to the idols of the world and sin. Satan’s ultimate goal is to place you into bondage and, like he did to Jeroboam, cause you to turn away from God. God warns against turning your job, things that you create, or other things of the world into idols (Ps. 135:15; same 115:4). Drugs, alcohol, money, power, prestige, gambling, and things of the flesh can also become idols in your life: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry.” (Col. 3:5). Satan seeks to put your flesh at war with God’s Spirit: “[T]he mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God . . .” (Rom. 8:7). “and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:8; Gal. 5:19; 1 Tim. 1:10). If you are not careful, the devil will ultimately enslave you (Ro. 6:16; Gal. 4:7-9). If you then fail to ask for Christ to deliver you from your bondage, He may turn you over to your addictions until you repent (Ro. 1:24-33; Ps. 81:12). Thus, you must pick that which you will serve (Matt. 6:24). Are you trying to serve both Jesus and yourself?