Political Disunity.* 1Rehoboam went to Shechem,* where all Israel had come to make him king. 2When Jeroboam, son of Nebat, heard about it, he was still in Egypt. He had fled from King Solomon and remained in Egypt, 3and they sent for him.
Then Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and they said to Rehoboam, 4“Your father put a heavy yoke on us. If you now lighten the harsh servitude and the heavy yoke your father imposed on us, we will be your servants.” 5He answered them, “Come back to me in three days,” and the people went away.
6King Rehoboam asked advice of the elders who had been in his father Solomon’s service while he was alive, and asked, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” 7They replied, “If today you become the servant of this people and serve them, and give them a favorable answer, they will be your servants forever.” 8But he ignored the advice the elders had given him, and asked advice of the young men who had grown up with him and were in his service. 9He said to them, “What answer do you advise that we should give this people, who have told me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father imposed on us’?” 10The young men who had grown up with him replied, “This is what you must say to this people who have told you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy; you lighten it for us.’ You must say, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. 11My father put a heavy yoke on you, but I will make it heavier. My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions.’” 12Jeroboam and the whole people came back to King Rehoboam on the third day, as the king had instructed them: “Come back to me in three days.” 13Ignoring the advice the elders had given him, the king gave the people a harsh answer. 14He spoke to them as the young men had advised: “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will make it heavier. My father beat you with whips, but I will beat you with scorpions.” 15a The king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD: he fulfilled the word the LORD had spoken through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam, son of Nebat. 16b When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king:
“What share have we in David?*
We have no heritage in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, Israel!
Now look to your own house, David.”
18King Rehoboam then sent out Adoram,* who was in charge of the forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam then managed to mount his chariot and flee to Jerusalem. 19And so Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20When all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, they summoned him to an assembly and made him king over all Israel. None remained loyal to the house of David except the tribe of Judah alone.
Divine Approval.* 21On his arrival in Jerusalem, Rehoboam assembled all the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin—one hundred and eighty thousand elite warriors—to wage war against the house of Israel, to restore the kingdom to Rehoboam, son of Solomon. 22However, the word of God came to Shemaiah, a man of God: 23Say to Rehoboam, son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and to Benjamin, and to the rest of the people: 24Thus says the LORD: You must not go out to war against your fellow Israelites. Return home, each of you, for it is I who have brought this about. They obeyed the word of the LORD and turned back, according to the word of the LORD.
Jeroboam’s Cultic Innovations.* 26Jeroboam thought to himself: “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD in Jerusalem, the hearts of this people will return to their master, Rehoboam, king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam, king of Judah.” 28c The king took counsel, made two calves of gold, and said to the people: “You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 29d And he put one in Bethel, the other in Dan.* 30This led to sin, because the people frequented these calves in Bethel and in Dan. 31He also built temples on the high places and made priests from among the common people who were not Levites.
Divine Disapproval.* 32Jeroboam established a feast in the eighth month on the fifteenth day of the month like the pilgrimage feast in Judah, and he went up to the altar. He did this in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves he had made. He stationed in Bethel the priests of the high places he had built. 33Jeroboam went up to the altar he built in Bethel on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, the month he arbitrarily chose. He established a feast for the Israelites, and he went up to the altar to burn incense.
* [12:1–14:20] Like the story of the reign of Solomon, the story of the reign of Jeroboam is concentrically organized. Ahijah’s oracle of promise to Jeroboam (11:26–43) belongs to both stories, ending that of Solomon (see note on 1:1–11:43) and beginning that of Jeroboam; it corresponds to Ahijah’s oracle of condemnation in 14:1–20. Within those literary boundaries are accounts of political (12:1–20) and religious (13:11–34) disunity between Israel and Judah. The center of the story is the account of Jeroboam’s heterodox cultic innovations (12:26–31).
* [12:1–20] The first major unit of the Jeroboam story was Ahijah’s oracle (11:26–40), followed by the notice of Solomon’s death (11:41–43). This is the second major unit. It tells how Jeroboam came to the throne of Israel after the intransigence of Solomon’s son Rehoboam provoked the northern tribes to secede from Jerusalem. The political disunity of the two kingdoms fulfills the word spoken by Ahijah. Compare 13:11–32, where Jeroboam’s improper cultic innovations produce religious disunity as well. The scene is concentrically arranged: narrative introduction, first interview, first consultation, second consultation, second interview, narrative conclusion. Chronicles has a parallel version of this story in 2 Chr 10:1–19.
* [12:1] Shechem: chief city of the northern tribes, where a covenant had previously been made between the Lord and his people and a stone of witness had been erected in memory of the event (Jos 24:25–27). All Israel: see note on 4:7–19.
* [12:16] What share have we in David?: even in David’s time the northern tribes seemed ready to withdraw from the union with Judah (2 Sm 20:1). The unreasonable attitude of Rehoboam toward them intensified the discontent caused by the oppression of Solomon (v. 4) and thus precipitated the political separation of the two kingdoms. In the view of the Deuteronomistic historian (1 Kgs 11:35–36; 12:24), this was by the Lord’s decree.
* [12:21–25] The center of this unit is a divine oracle delivered by a man of God of the Southern Kingdom in which the Lord affirms his approval of the secession of the northern tribes. Compare 13:1–10, where another man of God from Judah proclaims the Lord’s condemnation of Jeroboam’s religious separatism. Chronicles has a very similar version of Shemaiah’s oracle in 2 Chr 11:1–4.
* [12:26–31] At the center of the story of Jeroboam the narrator describes how the king went beyond the political separation of Israel from Judah to create a separatist religious system as well. Jeroboam feared that continued worship in the single Temple in Jerusalem would threaten the political independence of his kingdom. To prevent this he established sanctuaries with non-levitical clergy in his own territory. At two of the sanctuaries he set up golden calves, which the narrator depicts as idols. Thus begins what will later be called “the sin of Jeroboam” (13:34), a theme that will be echoed throughout 1–2 Kings in the condemnations of almost every king of the Northern Kingdom. Historically, Jeroboam’s innovations were not as heterodox as our narrative portrays them. Bethel was an ancient and traditional site for worship of the Lord; and the calves were probably intended to be a dais for the deity invisibly enthroned upon them, rather like the cherubim atop the ark of the covenant.
* [12:32–13:10] This unit of the Jeroboam story corresponds to 12:21–25. Before Jeroboam’s cultic innovations, a man of God from Judah proclaimed the Lord’s approval of the political separation of the kingdoms. After Jeroboam’s cultic innovations, a man of God from Judah proclaims the Lord’s disapproval of Israel’s religious separatism. The unit begins with a long, detailed introduction about the dedication festival Jeroboam holds at Bethel (12:32–33); then follows the scene of the ceremony disrupted by the oracle of the man of God (13:1–10).