1 Kings 12-14

After Solomon’s reign of glory, the tribes of Israel would no longer behave as one nation-state. Divided, they couldn’t even tolerate each other, resorting to bitter fighting between Israel and Judah. An enmity usually saved for the children of Ammon and Moab, the kingdoms began warring against each other—a particularly heinous sin to the Lord.
The culture of enmity between the two kingdoms is frequently forgotten, but it is crucial to understanding the next three centuries of history. Israel and Judah became separate kingdoms. They would have different kings, different places of worship, and different prophets. Eventually, they would each produce separate scripture, “take thee one stick, and write upon it, For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions: then take another stick, and write upon it, For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions: And join them one to another into one stick” (Ezek. 37:16-17). After, these two sticks of scripture were joined together, another great event was prophesied. Isaiah spoke of the Millennial day, when the enmity between the two kingdoms would end, “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isa. 11:13).
1 Kings 12:6 Rehoboam consulted with the old men
Some traits are not genetic. Apparently, Solomon’s wisdom was not passed on to his son Rehoboam. He could have received the same wisdom from Solomon’s seasoned advisors, but he didn’t.
Spencer J. Condie
Rehoboam rejected the counsel which required him to humble himself and to serve others. Instead, he chose to reign over Israel with a very heavy hand, thus causing a great division into the northern Kingdom of Israel and the southern Kingdom of Judah. (See 1 Kgs. 12:20)
For the next 220 years the people generally set aside their sacred covenants, thus wandering in the ways of the world. (“Some Scriptural Lessons on Leadership,” Ensign, May 1990, 27)
1 Kings 12:15 the cause was from the Lord [as] the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam
Like Saul and David before him, Jeroboam would receive his calling from a prophet of God.
And it came to pass at that time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field:
And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces:
And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for 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…
And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel. (1 Kgs. 11:29-37)
Jeroboam showed wisdom and restraint when he and the congregation of Israel came to Rehoboam. He didn’t declare his own calling. He didn’t tell anyone the story of how the prophet Ahijah had promised him the kingdom. He simply asked for lower taxes. Who doesn’t want lower taxes? Jeroboam never demanded the kingdom. Rather, the ten tribes came to him, “and made him king over all Israel.” (v. 20)
1 Kings 12:16 What portion have we in David?
“Deep-rooted cultural and ethnic differences separated the northern and southern tribes of Israel—differences that can be traced back to the days of the division of the land in the time of Joshua, and perhaps even earlier. David was originally king over the tribe of Judah while he lived in Hebron, while Saul’s son Ish-bosheth reigned over Israel (that is, the remaining tribes). Following Ish-bosheth’s death ‘all the tribes of Israel’ came to Hebron and there anointed David king over Israel. (2 Sam. 5:1–5.) When the united kingdom again broke apart following Solomon’s death, we read that ‘all Israel’ (that is, the northern tribes) said to Solomon’s son and successor, Rehoboam, ‘What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel.’ (1 Kgs. 12:16.) Thus the northern tribes viewed the house of David as pertaining only to the tribe of Judah, hearkening back to the days before David’s united kingship when division, and not unity, characterized the relationship between the two groups of tribes.” (John M. Lundquist, “Life in Ancient Biblical Lands,” Ensign, Dec. 1981, 36)
1 Kings 12:20 there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only
If 10 tribes followed Jeroboam and one tribe followed Rehoboam, that only makes 11 tribes. Joseph’s inheritance was divided into the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, making 13 tribes, but since the Levites were spread throughout the land holdings of the other tribes, there were still only 12 land-holding tribes. Ten of these land-holding tribes followed Jeroboam. The scripture says that “none… followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only” but in fact the tribe of Benjamin was geographically and politically tied so closely to Judah that for all intents and purposes, it was included in the kingdom of Judah (v. 21). Hence, Judah and Benjamin are the two tribes not “lost.”
“By the time the period of the judges ended (about 1050 B.C.), all the land and blood tribes of Israel were at last united into a kingdom under Saul and later David. In the time of Solomon, however, the prophet Ahijah informed Jeroboam, an Ephraimite, that it was the Lord’s intention to give him ten of the tribes, while Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, would retain but one tribe. (See 1 Kgs. 11:29–37; 1 Kgs. 12:20.) Thus it was that Jeroboam became king of Israel while Rehoboam remained king of Judah.
“The first question is, if ten tribes went to Jeroboam and one (Judah) to Rehoboam, what of the remaining tribal groups?
“…Benjamin… is mentioned as part of Judah at the time of Rehoboam (see 1 Kgs. 12:20–21, 23; also 2 Chr. 11:3, 23), although a portion of Benjamin was initially retained by Jeroboam. But by the time of Asa, king of Judah (955 B.C.), all the territory of Benjamin had been captured by the kingdom of Judah and Benjamin remained thereafter a land part of Judah only. This is confirmed by the numerous passages listing the two tribes together. (See, for example, 2 Chr. 15:2, 8–9; 2 Chr. 25:5; 2 Chr. 31:1; 2 Chr. 34:9, 32.)
“The Levites, who had no major land inheritance, owed much of their allegiance and service to the temple in Judah’s Jerusalem. Jeroboam therefore expelled most of the Levites from his kingdom and appointed non-Levites as priests to serve in his apostate temples. (See 1 Kgs. 12:26–33; 2 Chr. 11:13–16; 2 Chr. 13:9–11.) Thus the blood tribe of Levi, having “resorted to him [Rehoboam] out of all their coasts” and having “left their suburbs and their possession and [come] to Judah and Jerusalem” (2 Chr. 11:13–14) also ended up, for the most part, in the land kingdom of Judah.
“In time, however, both the northern and southern kingdoms were to suffer the fate of exile. The kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 B.C., while Judah fell to the Assyrians’ conquerors, the Babylonians, in 586 B.C. The people of the northern kingdom that were taken away never returned to reclaim their land, and eventually they became the ‘lost tribes’—that is, lost to the record-keepers of Judah. The people of land Judah were more fortunate. In 537 B.C., Cyrus II of Persia, who had conquered Babylon, issued a decree allowing the people of Judah to return home and rebuild Jerusalem and their temple. (John A. Tvedtnes, “The ‘Other Tribes’: Which Are They?” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 32)
1 Kings 12:28 the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold
Bruce A. Carlson
When we choose to disobey a commandment, it is usually because (1) we have convinced ourselves that the commandment does not apply to us; (2) we do not believe that it is important; or (3) we are certain that it is too difficult to obey.
Jeroboam convinced himself that some of God’s commandments were not applicable to him. As a result of his actions, all of his descendants were slain, and because of the heathen practices he had introduced into their sacred ordinances, the ten tribes of Israel were eventually driven from their inheritance. (“When the Lord Commands,” Ensign, May 2010, 38–40)
1 Kings 12:31 he… made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi
The Lord’s prophets are supposed to ordain the priests, not the king. When a political leader starts setting up the priests, we call it “apostasy.” When you compare the Great Apostasy to the one instigated by Jeroboam, Jeroboam was able to establish his remarkably quickly. He set up some places for idol worship, made some idols, and made himself some priests. How easy is that? Apparently, everyone had forgotten the first 2 commandments from Sinai.
The Lord took great exception with the perversion of his priesthood. No one had authorized Jeroboam to set up priests who weren’t Levites. The Lord was also upset with the Levites who perverted the ordinances and offended the Lord. So much so, that the Millennial prophecies regarding the Aaronic Priesthood speak of the restoration of these ordinances in righteousness. As part of the “restitution of all things,” (Acts 3:21) the Levitical Priesthood will be redeemed from its apostasy. Ezekiel saw this great day, when the Levites would perform their ordinances righteously in the great Millennial Jerusalem temple:
the Levites that are gone away far from me, when Israel went astray, which went astray away from me after their idols; they shall even bear their iniquity.
Yet they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, having charge at the gates of the house, and ministering to the house: they shall slay the burnt offering and the sacrifice for the people, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them.
Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity; therefore have I lifted up mine hand against them, saith the Lord GOD, and they shall bear their iniquity.
And they shall not come near unto me, to do the office of a (high) priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, in the most holy place (in the temple): but they shall bear their shame, and their abominations which they have committed.
But I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all the service thereof, and for all that shall be done therein. (Ezek. 44:10-14)
Once the Lord has reestablished the Levitical Priesthood in righteousness, then, at some point, it will be taken from the earth as prophesied by John the Baptist (D&C 13). The Lord has been frustrated with this perversion of his priesthood and longs for the time when “the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in Righteousness” (D&C 13:1).
1 Kings 13:2 Josiah… shall… offer the priests of the high places… upon thee
For generations after Solomon, whether a king was righteous or wicked depended upon what he did with the idol-worshippers and their altars in “the high places.” A few kings became famous for righteousness by destroying these. Josiah was one of these:
Moreover the altar that was at Beth-el, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he brake down, and burned the high place, and stamped it small to powder, and burned the grove.
And as Josiah turned himself, he spied the sepulchres that were there in the mount, and sent, and took the bones out of the sepulchres, and burned them upon the altar, and polluted it, according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these words.
Then he said, What title is that that I see? And the men of the city told him, It is the sepulchre of the man of God, which came from Judah, and proclaimed these things that thou hast done against the altar of Beth-el.
And he said, Let him alone; let no man move his bones. So they let his bones alone, with the bones of the prophet that came out of Samaria.
And all the houses also of the high places that were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made to provoke the LORD to anger, Josiah took away, and did to them according to all the acts that he had done in Beth-el.
And he slew all the priests of the high places that were there upon the altars, and burned men's bones upon them, and returned to Jerusalem. (2 Kgs. 23:15-20)
Joseph B. Wirthlin
The Lord chose Jeroboam and promised remarkable blessings to him if only he would obey the commandments and journey to higher ground. After Solomon’s death, the words of the prophet were fulfilled, and ten of the twelve tribes of Israel followed Jeroboam.
After receiving such favor, did the new king obey the Lord?
Unfortunately, he did not. He set up golden calves and encouraged his people to worship them. He created his own “priesthood” by selecting whomsoever he would, consecrating them to be “priests of the high places.” In short, in spite of the great blessings he had received from the Lord, the king was evil above all those before him. In later generations, Jeroboam was the standard by which evil kings of Israel were compared.
Because of such wickedness, the Lord turned away from Jeroboam. As a result of the king’s wickedness, the Lord decreed that the king and all of his family would be destroyed until not one was left. This prophecy was later fulfilled to the letter. The seed of Jeroboam perished from the earth. [See 1 Kgs. 15:29]
Solomon and Jeroboam are examples of a great, tragic cycle so often illustrated in the Book of Mormon. When the people are righteous, the Lord prospers them. Prosperity often leads to pride, which leads to sin. Sin leads to wickedness and to hearts that become hardened to things of the Spirit. Eventually, the end of this road leads to heartbreak and sorrow.
This pattern is repeated not only in the lives of individual people but by cities, nations, and even the world. The consequences of ignoring the Lord and His prophets are certain and often accompanied by great sorrow and regret. In our day the Lord has warned that wickedness will ultimately lead to “famine, and plague, and earthquake, and the thunder of heaven” until “the inhabitants of the earth be made to feel the wrath, and indignation, and chastening hand of an Almighty God.” [D&C 87:6] (“Journey to Higher Ground,” Ensign, Nov 2005, 16)
1 Kings 13:18 I am a prophet also as thou art; and an angel spake unto me
Latter-day saints need to be very careful about following individuals just because their church credentials look good. One prophet can deceive another. One member can deceive another. One prophet can use his calling to influence another. One member can use his calling and status in the church to lead us astray.
Jeffrey R. Holland
We are tempted to think there is an easy way, a fast buck, that in the world’s goods and the glories of men’s kingdoms, we may ride through reaping, as [we wish].
Forgive me if I go on. Recently I was working with President Elliot Cameron on the BYU—Hawaii Campus, only to open the Sunday edition of the Honolulu Advertiser to read this headline: “Mormon Utah Called A Test Market For Scams.” May I quote a few lines.
“Utah’s large Mormon population has become a prime target for con artists and swindlers who annually gyp the state’s residents out of hundreds of millions of dollars. …
“Federal prosecutors say the state has gained a national reputation as ‘test market for scams.’ ‘If it works here, they take it on the road. …’
“ ‘It has happened time and time again. … It’s very easy for people to bridge the gap from unbelievability to believability if church affiliation is used.’ …
“The investor lists were drawn up on genealogy sheets used by church members to trace their ancestry. … Mormon leaders denounced the scheme in a stinging editorial which asked, ‘Why do people take chances like this? Why do people gamble?’ One answer. ‘Their greed gland gets stuck. … [I]n this culture, financial success is often equated with righteousness.’ ” (Peter Gillins, Sunday Star Bulletin and Advertiser, Honolulu, Jan. 10, 1982)
Note this from Elder Marvin J. Ashton in our last general conference:
“In today’s marketplace—yes, in your own neighborhood, town, and cities—scheming, deceiving promoters are making available to gullible purchasers all kinds of enticing offers. We are sorry to report thousands within our ranks are being duped by the glib tongues of those who offer and solicit in whispers. ‘Once in a lifetime opportunities’ and ‘Just for you’ approaches. …” (Ensign, Nov. 1981, p. 90.)
We can get our share of the earth’s bounties but not this way. (“The Inconvenient Messiah,” Ensign, Feb. 1984, 72)
1 Kings 14:11 Him that dieth of Jeroboam… shall the dogs eat; and… the fouls of the air eat
When “we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated” (D&C 130:21). When we obtain any cursing from God, it is by disobedience to that law upon which it is predicated. The Law of Moses included a cursing for idolatry:
…it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee
…thy carcase shall be meat unto all fowls of the air, and unto the beasts of the earth, and no man shall fray them away. (Deut. 28:15, 26)
1 Kings 14:15 the Lord shall smite Israel… and shall scatter them beyond the river
“Jeroboam immediately plunged the kingdom of Israel into enduring wickedness. Fearing that his people would travel to Jerusalem to worship at the temple in the kingdom of Judah and thus eventually shift their allegiance there, he made idols for their false worship. (See 1 Kgs. 12:26–33.) Nevertheless, the northern kingdom of Israel endured for another 253 years before the people’s wickedness weakened the kingdom to the point that Assyria conquered it.
“The Assyrian conquest began about 738 B.C. when the armies of Tiglath-Pileser III marched against Menahem, king of Israel, wresting part of his dominion and compelling him to pay tribute. By 733 B.C., all of the northern kingdom except Mount Ephraim was conquered by the Assyrians, including the lands occupied by the tribes of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Issachar, and the half-tribe of Manasseh in the region of Galilee, and Reuben, Gad, and the other half-tribe of Manasseh in trans-Jordan.” (See 2 Kgs. 15:29; 1 Chr. 5:26.) (Vern G. Swanson, “Israel’s ‘Other Tribes,’ ” Ensign, Jan. 1982, 26, 28)
1 Kings 14:22-23 Judah did evil… they also built them high places, and images, and groves on every high hill
We are used to “The Sacred Grove;” Judah and Israel preferred “profane groves.” In hidden groves, sexual rituals were performed to honor idolatrous gods. It started as nature worship and devolved into acts of gross immorality.
“Either a living tree or a tree-like pole [was] set up as an object of worship, being symbolical of the female or productive principle in nature. Every Phoenician altar had an asherah near it. The word is often translated ‘green trees’ or ‘grove.’ This nature worship became associated with gross immorality, and so the practice of setting up such ‘groves or idols was forbidden by Hebrew prophets.” (Bible Dictionary, “Groves”)
“Asherah was honored as the fertility goddess in various forms and with varying names (Judg. 3:7). The Bible does not actually describe the goddess, but archaeologists have discovered figurines believed to be representations of her. She is portrayed as a nude female, sometimes pregnant, with exaggerated breasts that she holds out, apparently as symbols of the fertility she promises her followers. The Bible indicates that she was worshiped near trees and poles, called Asherah poles (Deut. 7:5, 12:2-3; 2 Kings 16:4, 17:10; Jer. 3:6,13; Ezek. 6:13).” (http://www.followtherabbi.com/Brix?pageID=2725)
1 Kings 14:25-26 Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: and he took away the treasures of the house of the Lord
An Egyptian king and his uncircumcised servants in Solomon’s temple? What could be a greater offense to Israel’s God? This was as bad as losing the ark of the covenant to the Philistines (1 Sam. 4-6). The temple had been built just one generation prior. They had filled it with an amazing collection of Solomon’s acquired wealth (2 Chron. 3-9), for Solomon was so rich that he “made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones” (2 Chron. 1:15). Now it was defiled. The gold dedicated to the Lord was sacked by a Gentile king.
Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, because they had transgressed against the Lord,
With twelve hundred chariots, and threescore thousand horsemen: and the people were without number that came with him out of Egypt; the Lubims, the Sukkiims, and the Ethiopians.
And he took the fenced cities which pertained to Judah, and came to Jerusalem.
Then came Shemaiah the prophet to Rehoboam, and to the princes of Judah, that were gathered together to Jerusalem because of Shishak, and said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, Ye have forsaken me, and therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak.
Whereupon the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, the Lord is righteous.
And when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance; and my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. (2 Chron. 12:2-7)
“Because of Jeroboam's wickedness, the Lord foretold the destruction of his royal house through the same prophet, Ahijah, who had predicted his rise (1 Kgs. 11:28-39). The Lord also foretold the scattering of the northern tribes because of their sins—two hundred years before its occurrence (1 Kgs. 14:15-16). Israel's future was bleak. But Judah in the South was little better off during the time of northern wickedness, because they also did evil in the sight of the Lord beyond anything that had been done by their fathers (1 Kgs. 14:22). Judah's practices included the worship of the god Baal.
“As a consequence of the moral, emotional, social, and physical weakness that accompanies such behavior among an unfit people in 918 B.C. a foreign power, Egypt, led by Pharaoh Shishak, invaded Judah and ravaged the temple in Jerusalem by taking away as booty all "the treasures of the house of the Lord" (1 Kgs. 14:25-26). A fragment of Shishak's inscription has been found at Megiddo, and a representation of his victory over Rehoboam is found at the Temple of Karnak in Egypt. Although the Bible mentions only Judah, evidence indicates that Shishak invaded the Northern Kingdom as well. He inscribed the names of many northern cities on his victory relief at Karnak. Thus, both Israel in the North and Judah in the South were greatly weakened during and after the reigns of their respective evil kings, Jeroboam and Rehoboam.” (Kent P. Jackson, ed., Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 32)