God Disciplines His Unfaithful Kings
1 Kings 12 – 2 Kings 25
Kingship in Israel experienced ups and downs during the reigns of Saul, David, and Solomon. After Solomon’s death, however, the situation trends downward even more, beginning with the division of the kingdom. The book of Kings ultimately explains the tragedy of the defeat and exile of both kingdoms. Beyond explaining historical events, Kings challenges its readers to confront the covenant failings of Israel and the way forward in God’s mission.
The Direction of Israel as the Kingdom Divides (1 Kings 12-14)
Before Solomon’s death, God promises the northern tribes to Jeroboam, one of Solomon’s officials (1 Kings 11:26-33). As with David and Solomon, however, God places the same stipulation of faithfulness on Jeroboam’s continuing rule.
1 Kings 11:38
If you do whatever I command you and walk in obedience to me and do what is right in my eyes by obeying my decrees and commands, as David my servant did, I will be with you. I will build you a dynasty as enduring as the one I built for David and will give Israel to you.
In spite of God’s promise to Jeroboam, the new king of the northern tribes commits a severe breach of the covenant. His sin reflects a lack of trust in God because he fears that, if his subjects travel to Judah to make sacrifice at the Jerusalem temple, they will return to their loyalty to the house of David. As a result he establishes two unauthorized sites of worship: one at Dan in the northern part of his territory, and one at Bethel in the southern part of his territory (1 Kings 12:26-30).
Jeroboam’s actions disturbingly parallel Israel’s sin while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, as he sets up a golden calf at each site. He also diverges from God’s will by establishing priests apart from the tribe of Levi and a new festival to celebrate his “accomplishment.”
1 Kings 12:31-33
Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people,...