Before the death of King Solomon, the prophet Ahijah was given a message to convey to Jeroboam, one of Solomon's officers, a mighty man of valor. The message was ominous: Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee . Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. 1 Kings 11:31-35.
It appears that this message became known to Solomon, for he sought to kill Jeroboam. And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon. 1 Kings 11:40.
This experience must have seemed very strange to Jeroboam. Assured by the prophet that he would be made king over ten tribes of what was then Solomon's kingdom, he was immediately compelled to flee from Solomon to Egypt, beyond that great southern desert, to save his life. While these circumstances made it seem impossible for him ever to rule over a large part of Solomon's kingdom, in due time the prediction was fulfilled. God had promised him a kingdom, and there could be no failure. It is interesting here, as frequently, to trace the changes and movements that culminate in the complete fulfillment of a promise conveyed through the spirit of prophecy.
And Solomon slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David his father: and Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead. 1 Kings 11:43.
When Jeroboam heard of the death of Solomon, he returned to Palestine. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee. 1 Kings 12:3, 4.
Rehoboam asked for three days in which to seek counsel and make a decision. The old men in council advised him to speak good words to them, assuring them of considerate and just treatment. But the young men counseled Rehoboam to say to the people, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins . My father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 1 Kings 12:10, 11.
When Rehoboam gave his reply to the people who returned for his answer, they shouted, To your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. Then they called Jeroboam unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. Verses 16, 20, 19. Thus the prediction which the prophet Ahijah had made to Jeroboam was fulfilled in every detail. The cause was from the Lord, that He might perform His saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam. Verse 15.
Thus the kingdom demanded and established by Israel in the days of Samuel began to disintegrate. It was divided. The ten tribes in the northern part of Palestine chose Jeroboam for their king, and established what was known as the kingdom of Israel. The two remaining tribes, Judah and Benjamin, in the southern part, took their stand with Rehoboam, and maintained the kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon under the name kingdom of Judah.
The time of this period is somewhat uncertain. One of the dates fixed by chronologers of high repute is 976 B. C. As this appears to be supported by as reliable evidence as any other date, it will be used in the reckoning that follows.
The kingdom of Israel continued from 976 to 722 B. C., a period of over two hundred fifty years. Its history was stormy and tragic beyond expression. Revolutionary uprisings overthrew one dynasty after another until nine different dynasties and nineteen different kings had ruled the kingdom. The last king was Hoshea, who, in the ninth year of his reign, was taken to
Assyria and imprisoned. (See 2 Kings 17:3, 4.) Following this the people were carried away out of their own land to Assyria unto this day. Verse 23.
Israel might have been spared the terrible experiences that came to them. Times without number the Lord gave them counsel and assurance such as the following: The covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. But the Lord your God ye shall fear; and He shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies. 2 Kings 17: 38, 39.
This counsel and assurance of protection and triumph, the Lord says, I sent to you by My servants the prophets. Verse 13. This great service of the prophets was given to Jeroboam, the first king of this new, independent kingdom. While in private life a servant of King Solomon, he had received through the prophet Ahijah a message from the Lord to the effect that he was destined to be king over the ten northern tribes of Solomon's kingdom. This message was fulfilled to the letter. Thus far all was well, and Jeroboam began his reign with the brightest prospects that could possibly be desired. In the message sent through the prophet, the Lord said to Jeroboam:
I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all that I command thee, and wilt walk in My ways, and do that is right in My sight, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as David My servant did; that I will be with thee, and build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. 1 Kings 11:37, 38.
What great honor was bestowed upon this man Jeroboam by the Majesty of heaven! What deep gratitude and genuine loyalty to the Giver such assurance called for from the king! But it was not thus appreciated. It is painful to read of the base ingratitude and disloyalty set down in the records of this man's life after being crowned king.
Having established his capital at Shechem in central Palestine, Jeroboam immediately proceeded to make provision for the religious worship of his subjects. He made two calves of gold, and set one up in Bethel and the other in Dan. To all the people he said, Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 1 Kings 12:28. He built a high place of worship, made priests of the lowest of the people who were not of the tribe of Levi, and called the people together apparently for the dedication. Then he himself assumed the office of priest, and offered sacrifices to the calves he had made of gold. (See 1 Kings 12:31-33.)
In the midst of these wicked proceedings, there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: and Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. 1 Kings 13:1. The prophet rebuked Jeroboam for his wickedness, and foretold sore punishment that would follow. At this the king stretched forth his hand, and in anger commanded his officers to lay hold of the prophet. Instantly his arm dried up, so that he could not bring it back to his side. The altar was rent by his side. These manifestations of God's displeasure brought the king to serious thought. He then requested the prophet to pray for the restoration of his arm. The prophet prayed, and the arm was restored. (See 1 Kings 13:1-6.)
This is an example of Jeroboam's cruel ingratitude and of the Lord's compassion and earnest endeavor to save him. But the effort failed, for the record says: After this thing Jeroboam returned not from his evil way. He continued to lead the people into heathen worship. And this thing became sin unto the house of Jeroboam, even to cut it off, and to destroy it from off the face of the earth. 1 Kings 13:33, 34.
After a time, Abijah, Jeroboam's son, became seriously ill, nigh unto death. Jeroboam knew that he was under the displeasure of God, and undoubtedly feared that he was being visited with divine judgment. In his distress he remembered the good old prophet Ahijah, God's inspired messenger. The prophet
would know if this sickness was a judgment from the Lord, and whether his son would die.
Jeroboam said to his wife, Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself, that thou be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam; and get thee to Shiloh: behold, there is Ahijah the prophet, which told me that I should be king over this people . He shall tell thee what shall become of the child. And Jeroboam's wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. But Ahijah could not see; for his eyes were set by reason of his age. 1 Kings 14:2-4.
Jeroboam wanted help. He knew that God could restore his son, even as he had restored his own withered arm. He knew that Ahijah was in communication with God. He vainly hoped that his wife might secure the prophet's mighty intercession for his son's recovery. But he feared to let Ahijah know that it was Jeroboam who was seeking this help. Hence the instruction to his wife to disguise herself.
But the ruse did not succeed. While the queen was on her way to the prophet, the Lord said unto Ahijah, Behold, the wife of Jeroboam cometh to ask a thing of thee for her son; for he is sick: thus and thus shalt thou say unto her: for it shall be, when she cometh in, that she shall feign herself to be another woman. And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Verses 5, 6.
Then it became the painful duty of the disappointed old prophet to deliver to the queen a terrible message to take to her husband, King Jeroboam.
Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Forasmuch as I exalted thee from among the people, and made thee prince over My people Israel, and rent the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it thee: and yet thou hast not been as My servant David, who kept My commandments, and who followed Me with all his heart, to do that only which was right in Mine eyes; but hast done evil above all
that were before thee: for thou hast gone and made thee other gods, and molten images, to provoke Me to anger, and hast cast Me behind thy back: therefore, behold, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam, and will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, till it be all gone . Arise thou therefore, get thee to thine own house: and when thy feet enter into the city, the child shall die. And Jeroboam's wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah: and when she came to the threshold of the door, the child died. 1 Kings 14:7-12, 17.
This, apparently, was the last communication between Ahijah and Jeroboam. Swift judgment and disaster fell upon the house of Jeroboam in fulfillment of the word of the Lord through the prophet Ahijah. Shortly after receiving the message, Jeroboam led the forces of his kingdom against the army of Judah, and suffered a crushing defeat. His army was destroyed with a great slaughter: so there fell down slain of Israel five hundred thousand chosen men. Thus the children of Israel were brought under at that time . Neither did Jeroboam recover strength again in the days of Abijah; and the Lord struck him, and he died. 2 Chron. 13:17-20.
Jeroboam was succeeded by his son Nadab, who did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of his father, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. 1 Kings 15:25, 26. In the second year of Nadab's reign, Baasha, a conspirator, slew him, and smote all the house of Jeroboam; he left not to Jeroboam any that breathed, until he had destroyed him. Verses 28, 29.
In less than two years after the death of Jeroboam his dynasty was exterminated; and this was only twenty-four years from the day he had been crowned king by the Lord's choosing, and by the marvelous working of many divine providences.
Such was the terrible beginning of the history of the kingdom of Israel, composed of the ten northern tribes, and this continued to be the history of this kingdom until it was utterly and forever destroyed. Eighteen kings reigned over this kingdom after the
death of Jeroboam, and all wrought folly in Israel. Not one walked in the way of the Lord. Of every one of the eighteen except one, it is written: He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord; he departed not from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin. 2 Kings 13:11. The only one of whom this is not written was Shallum, who secured the throne by a wicked conspiracy, and reigned only one month. (See 2 Kings 15:10-15.)
Through the prophetic gift Jeroboam was informed of his selection by the Lord to be king of Israel. Through this priceless gift he was instructed, warned, and reproved to the close of his life. No greater favor, no higher honor, could come to any man than those which came to him from the Lord. His ingratitude, his deliberate disregard of the Lord's wishes and designs for Israel, and his premeditated plans to ruin the nation he had been chosen to lead in triumph to a higher life, were a high-handed affront to God and a terrible wrong to the nation. They never recovered from the evil he had wrought; and this reveals how perilous it is to reject the messages of the spirit of prophecy.
Of Baasha, who usurped the throne after assassinating King Nadab, Jeroboam's son, and then exterminated the whole family of Jeroboam, it is written: He did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin. 1 Kings 15:34.
There was still need of the prophet, and of divine interference with the madness of man; and both came: By the hand of the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani came the word of the Lord against Baasha, and against his house, even for all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, in provoking Him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam. 1 Kings 16:7.
Baasha reigned twenty-three years, and was succeeded by his son Elah, whose reign was cut short by the conspiracy of Zimri, captain of half his chariots. Verse 9. In the second year of Elah's reign Zimri went in and smote him, and killed
him, and reigned in his stead . He slew all the house of Baasha . Thus did Zimri destroy all the house of Baasha, according to the word of the Lord, which He spake against Baasha by Jehu the prophet, for all the sins of Baasha, and the sins of Elah his son, by which they sinned, and by which they made Israel to sin. 1 Kings 16:9-13.
Zimri was not allowed to enjoy the fruits of his conspiracy for longonly seven dayswhen he was overthrown, and Omri was made king. During Omri's reign of twelve years he transferred the capital of the kingdom from Tirzah to Samaria.
But Omri wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him. Verse 25.
At his death he was succeeded by his son Ahab, who became notorious for his wickedness in Israel. This was in the year 932 B.C., fifty-eight years from the beginning of the kingdom under the reign of Jeroboam. The history is heartsickening. It was altogether unnecessary, for the kings and the people had faithful, inspired prophets with them from Jeroboam to Ahab. They were Ahijah, Iddo, a man of God, Shemaiah, Hanani, and Jehu. It seems that Jehu either joined Ahijah or followed him immediately; for soon after Jeroboam's death Jehu was sent to Baasha with a message of doom. From 2 Chronicles 19:2 we find this same prophet bearing a message of reproof to Jehoshaphat after the death of Ahab.
Thus the record shows that the prophetic gift was doing faithful, active, continued service for the welfare of rulers and people. But the results were very disappointing. In rejecting God as their king, Israel entered upon a road beset with perils they did not foresee. To the time of Ahab they suffered continual defeat, notwithstanding the presence and services of inspired prophets of God.