(NOTE: All Scripture verses are taken from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.)
FOCUS: Israel, Divided
BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: 1 Kings 11:42 – 12:24
David’s kingdom was inherited by his son, Solomon. But the son rejected his father’s legacy of faithfulness to the Lord God and chose to worship false gods instead. So after Solomon died, his son Rehoboam was given authority over only a portion of Israel – the southern kingdom, called Judah (the “Jews”), which included Jerusalem.
“Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel for forty years. Then he rested with his fathers and was buried in the city of David, his father. And Rehoboam his son succeeded him as king.
“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard of this (he was still in Egypt where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.’ . . .
“The king answered the people harshly . . . and said, ‘My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. . . .’ So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken . . .
“When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!’
“So the Israelites went home. But as for the Israelites who were living in the town of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them . . . So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
“When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David.
[At that point, Israel was divided into two kingdoms — Israel and Judah. Judah was composed of tribes Judah and Benjamin, plus people from the other 10 tribes who chose to stay with the descendants of David. So all 12 tribes were represented within Judah.]
“When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered the whole house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin – a hundred and eighty thousand fighting men – to make war against the house of Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon.
“But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God: ‘Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, to the whole house of Judah and Benjamin*, and to the rest of the people, “This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing.”’ So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered.”
* The writer says in verse 18 that “only the tribe of Judah was left.” Then in verse 21, he says that Rehoboam “mustered the whole house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin.” Perhaps this is where the tradition was born that contends there were 10 tribes in the northern kingdom and 2 tribes in the southern kingdom. So when the northern kingdom of “Israel” was exiled to Assyria, historians have called call those who were taken captive “THE TEN LOST TRIBES OF ISRAEL.” (One of those “lost tribes” was recently located in Ethiopia!)
PROPHECY CONNECTION #1: 2 Kings 17:1-23
Israel (the northern kingdom) and Judah (the southern kingdom) each had a series of kings who ruled over them. Though some of those kings did what was right, but the majority chose to do “evil in the eyes of the Lord.” And Almighty God decided it was time to do something about Israel’s rebellious behavior . . .
“In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned for nine years….
“In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. . . .
“All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt [Exodus 2-14]. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. . . . They did wicked things that provoked the Lord to anger. They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, ‘You shall not do this.’
“The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and seers: ‘Turn from your evil ways, Observe my commands and decrees. In accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.’
“But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their fathers and the warnings He had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do,’ and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do. . . . They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking Him to anger.
“So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from His presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; He afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until He thrust them from His presence. . . .
“So the people of Israel [the northern kingdom] were taken from their homeland into EXILE IN ASSYRIA, and they are still there.”
PROPHECY CONNECTION #2: 2 Chronicles 36:15-21
The people of Judah — the Jews — continued to ignore the warnings of God’s prophets to obey the covenant laws given through Moses to the descendants of Jacob (a.k.a. Israel). That included God’s instructions to allow the Promised Land “its sabbath rests” [Leviticus 26:42-43]. Once again, Almighty God waited patiently for His chosen people to repent of their evil ways and humbly return to Him. But after the reign of twenty kings and the passing of hundreds of years, the Sovereign Lord was once again provoked to anger . . .
“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through His messengers again and again, because He had pity on His people and on His dwelling place [the temple built by Solomon in Jerusalem]. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against His people and there was no remedy.
“HE BROUGHT UP THE KING OF THE BABYLONIANS, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God . . . They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem . . . He [Nebuchadnezzar] CARRIED INTO EXILE TO BABYLON the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the SEVENTY YEARS were completed* in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah [Jeremiah 25:8-11].
*After the seventy years were completed, the Medo-Persians conquered the Babylonians, just as the Lord foretold through His servant Daniel (Daniel 2:31-32, 39). And just as the Lord God had foretold through His prophet Jeremiah, Cyrus king of Persia proclaimed: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE EARTH and he has appointed me to build a temple for Him at Jerusalem in Judah” (Ezra 1:2). And all of God’s people, who had been held captive in Babylon, were encouraged to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. But Israel ceased to be an independent nation, and it was ruled and shaped by the kings of three powerful empires – Medo-Persia, Greece, and ultimately Rome.
PROPHECY CONNECTION #3: Luke 19:35-44
The captives returned to Jerusalem and the temple was rebuilt. But for more than 500 years, the descendants of Israel who lived in and around Jerusalem were ruled by non-Jewish kings. Then, in approximately 33 A.D., the King they had been waiting for finally made His entrance into Jerusalem. But they failed to recognize the legitimate heir to David’s throne . . .
“They brought [the donkey] to Jesus, threw their cloaks over the colt and put Jesus on it. As He went along, people spread their cloaks on the road. . . .
“As He approached Jerusalem and saw the city, He wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. . . . They will not leave one stone on another*, because you did not recognize the time of God coming to you.’”
* This prophecy was literally fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Romans took Jerusalem, using an embankment to besiege the city. The temple was completely destroyed by fire, and its stones were pried apart to collect the gold leaf that had melted from the roof. In 1968, archaeologists uncovered large numbers of stones that had toppled from the walls. (Source: NIV Study Bible)
WHAT’S THE POINT?
This important portion of Israel’s history is unknown to many people. It’s important because it shows the pattern of human behavior that Father God has had to deal with and respond to since He liberated Israel from Egypt, thousands of years ago. It helps modern-day believers understand “why the Lord brought all this disaster on them” (1 Kings 9:9). And it shows how the descendants of Israel, as a whole, came to be called “Jews” – probably after the northern kingdom (and a majority of people from each of those 10 tribes) was exiled to Assyria, leaving Judah as the dominant remaining tribe.
HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND?
The pattern of unfaithful behavior demonstrated by the descendants of ancient Israel continues throughout the world to this day. Many people who suddenly turned to God for comfort and survival in the days immediately following 9/11, have returned to the normalcy of daily life and are now questioning if God really exists! The Lord God’s “hand is still raised” but His patience is no doubt wearing thin.
WHY DOES IT MATTER?
As events unfold that signal “the end of the age” (Matthew 24:3), followers of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, can cling to historical evidence that God is unchanging in how He responds to sincere and humble hearts. He keeps His promises. And He continues to watch over “the throne of David.”
“. . . if you or your sons turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and I will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name.
“Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.”
— The Lord God, speaking to Solomon (1 Kings 9:6-7)
Check out the Prophecy Connections archive!