KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.” (1 Kings 12:20)
Chapters 12 through 16 of 1 Kings record the division of Israel into the separate nations of Judah and Israel, and their respective histories up to the time of Elijah. God allowed this division to occur because of Solomon’s disobedience and idolatry. In 1 Kings 11:9-13, the stage is set for the events that followed.
Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, was heir to the throne of the united Israel. However, due to God’s judgment against Solomon’s idolatry, Rehoboam became king only of Judah, which included the absorbed tribe of Benjamin. Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam, became king of the ten northern tribes known as Israel. The two kingdoms were at war throughout the next 260 years.
For approximately three years, Rehoboam seemingly followed in the way of the Lord (2 Chronicles 11:13-17). Yet as soon as he became king, Rehoboam turned from God, and led Judah into deeper sin. Similarly, Abijam (Abijah), Rehobam’s son and successor, initially seemed to have respect for God (he brought freewill offerings to the house of the Lord and, according to 2 Chronicles 13:4-18, called on God to provide victory in battle), but was not a godly man. His true heart was revealed by his continued worship of false gods. Religious apostasy deepened under his rule.
Following Abijam’s short reign of three years, Judah enjoyed many years under the righteous reigns of King Asa and his son, Jehoshaphat (1 Kings 15:24). Asa’s steps to turn Judah back to the worship of God included driving out the male cult prostitutes brought in by his father and removing all the idols his father had made. He displaced Maachah as queen mother, thus removing her influence toward idolatry. He also began to replenish the treasury of the Lord’s house.
During this same time frame, Israel endured a series of kings whose hearts were far from God. Unlike Judah, who had some kings who were devoted to God, Israel never had a king that did right in the sight of God. This apostasy started with Jeroboam’s introduction of a substitute religion and calf worship.
God pronounced judgment against Jeroboam because he led the people into sin, and debauchery was widespread among the next kings in Israel. Each successor went to bloody extremes to rid himself of potential threat from any relative of the previous king. Following Jeroboam’s death, Nadab assumed the throne, but in fulfillment of God’s prophecy concerning the destruction of the house of Jeroboam, Baasha assassinated Nadab and went on to kill all the males of the house of Jeroboam.
Baasha reigned for twenty-four years and was succeeded by his son, Elah, who reigned only two years before Zimri, one of his military commanders, assassinated him. Zimri destroyed the house of Baasha, but only lasted seven days as king because the people proclaimed Omri, commander of the army, as king.
Following four years of struggle, Omri established himself as king over Israel. The rule of his house lasted for forty-eight years through his reign and the reigns of Ahab, Ahaziah, and Jehoram. These kings all followed after the evil practices of calf worship, which ultimately brought their destruction.
The Book of 1 Kings weaves together an account of the moral choices made by individuals, prophecies which predict the consequences of these choices, and the actual political outcomes of these choices in Israel and Judah. The Bible clearly reveals that our response to God’s commands affects our families, our nation, and ourselves.