Divided Kingdom

Discovery for Students

Divided Kingdom


1 Kings 12:1 through 16:34

“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.


  1. The nations of Israel and Judah were divided, partly because Rehoboam listened to the advice of the young men and gave a rough reply when the people asked him to lighten their yoke (1 Kings 12:1-16). Compare the advice of the old men in 1 Kings 12:7 to the advice of the young men in 1 Kings 12:10-11, and explain why the advice of the old men was superior.
  2. Through Ahijah the prophet, God told Jeroboam that he would establish his house if Jeroboam would be obedient and keep God’s commandments (1 Kings 11:38). Read 1 Kings 12:26-33 to see Jeroboam’s response. Why did Jeroboam forsake God and set up golden calf idols in the towns of Bethel and Dan?
  3. Three miracles were performed by the prophet of Judah (1 Kings 13:1-6), yet Jeroboam did not turn from his idolatry (1 Kings 13:33,34). Why do you think Jeroboam persisted in his disobedience even after seeing the miracles? Compare this to the reaction of unbelievers today when they observe God at work.
  4. The prophet of Judah knew how important it was to obey God’s instructions (1 Kings 13:7-10), and yet he was persuaded to disobey by the old prophet of Bethel. What arguments did the old prophet use to foster disobedience in the prophet of Judah? (See 1 Kings 13:15-19.) How might similar arguments be presented to tempt us to disobey God’s commands today?
  5. Why do you think the lion killed the prophet of Judah? (See 1 Kings 13:20-32.) What can we learn from this account?
  6. Is the prophet of Judah’s disobedience any more or less excusable than the disobedience of King Jeroboam? Explain your answer.
  7. Under the reign of King Rehoboam, the nation of Judah also turned to idolatry (1 Kings 14:21-24). Of the ten kings mentioned in today’s text, only two of the kings — Asa of Judah and his son Jehoshaphat — did “that which was right in the eyes of the Lord” (1 Kings 15:11). After reading 1 Kings 15:9-15, note the difficulties that Asa must have faced in trying to do right. How might we face similar difficulties?
  8. There was no king in Israel who would stand up and stop the idol worship the country had fallen into; as a result, wickedness increased and Israel degenerated into gross sin (see 1 Kings 16:25-33). Wicked King Ahab “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). Give three examples of times when you have seen the effects of unrestrained disobedience and sin sustained and magnified in a life, a family, or a nation.


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.