1 Kings 14 The End of Kings Jeroboam and Rehoboam

By Charles Horne – [2], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9390700

1 Kings 14:1-20

1 At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam fell sick. 2 Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go, disguise yourself, so that it will not be known that you are the wife of Jeroboam, and go to Shiloh; for the prophet Ahijah is there, who said of me that I should be king over this people. 3 Take with you ten loaves, some cakes, and a jar of honey, and go to him; he will tell you what shall happen to the child.”

4 Jeroboam’s wife did so; she set out and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were dim because of his age. 5 But the LORD said to Ahijah, “The wife of Jeroboam is coming to inquire of you concerning her son; for he is sick. Thus and thus you shall say to her.”

When she came, she pretended to be another woman. 6 But when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam; why do you pretend to be another? For I am charged with heavy tidings for you. 7 Go, tell Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Because I exalted you from among the people, made you leader over my people Israel, 8 and tore the kingdom away from the house of David to give it to you; yet you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my sight, 9 but you have done evil above all those who were before you and have gone and made for yourself other gods, and cast images, provoking me to anger, and have thrust me behind your back; 10 therefore, I will bring evil upon the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every male, both bond and free in Israel, and will consume the house of Jeroboam, just as one burns up dung until it is all gone. 11 Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city, the dogs shall eat; and anyone who dies in the open country, the birds of the air shall eat; for the LORD has spoken.’ 12 Therefore set out, go to your house. When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. 13 All Israel shall mourn for him and bury him; for he alone of Jeroboam’s family shall come to the grave, because in him there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.

14 Moreover the LORD will raise up for himself a king over Israel, who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam today, even right now! 15 “The LORD will strike Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; he will root up Israel out of this good land that he gave to their ancestors, and scatter them beyond the Euphrates, because they have made their sacred poles, provoking the LORD to anger. 16 He will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and which he caused Israel to commit.”

17 Then Jeroboam’s wife got up and went away, and she came to Tirzah. As she came to the threshold of the house, the child died. 18 All Israel buried him and mourned for him, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant the prophet Ahijah.

19 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred and how he reigned, are written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Israel. 20 The time that Jeroboam reigned was twenty-two years; then he slept with his ancestors, and his son Nadab succeeded him.

Jeroboam’s rise to power over ten of the twelve tribes of Israel began with the prophet Ahijah tearing his new robe into twelve pieces and symbolically giving Jeroboam ten to represent God handing ten tribes over to Jeroboam and away from the house of David. The downfall of the house of Jeroboam begins with Jeroboam’s unnamed wife approaching the prophet Ahijah with ten loaves of bread, cake and honey, the offering of a poor person to inquire about the health of their son. Ahijah has disappeared from the narrative until his reemergence as an elderly prophet whose eyesight is failing but is still able to discern the voice of the LORD when God speaks to him. Jeroboam may be aware that Ahijah is at Shiloh, but this prophet seems to have been otherwise neglected during the reign of Jeroboam.

If Jeroboam had realized that Ahijah’s eyes were failing him it would have been unnecessary to instruct his wife to go in disguise. Yet, this prophet of failing eyesight is given clear insight by the LORD into both the identity of his visitor, her quest, and God’s pronouncement to her. My impression of prophets as a youth was that they were holy and proper figures, but this is not reflective of the biblical prophets. Whether it is a direct relaying of the message from God which carries God’s disgust or whether the tone of the message is reflective of this elderly prophet who has lost his sense of awe towards the king, the language that Ahijah uses to relay God’s judgment is more vulgar than English translations show. While the NRSV is correct that God promises to cut off every male in verse ten, the Hebrew for male (mustin bequir) is literally ‘one who pisses against the wall’ (NIB III: 112) and later they are compared to dung. There is a parallel with the language of the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32 (particularly verse 5-6), and the distinction of bond and free may be related either to slavery and freedom or being still under parental control and being an adult. Jeroboam’s wife has the unfortunate task of bearing both the message of her own son’s impending death as well as the dynasty of Jeroboam.

Unlike the dynasty of David, where the LORD seems content to allow the offspring of that line to continue despite their own abominable practices (see below) the LORD will continue to “tamper with dynastic politics” (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 179) in Israel by selecting new kings and allowing an air of instability of persist in Israel. In a somewhat heretical line of thought I wonder if the LORD is really bad at picking qualified leaders for the people, or what causes these kings to fail to live into the vision that God has for them. But during this time of multiple dynasties in Israel we will see the rise of the prophets who challenge the actions of the kings and attempt to bring the people back to the worship of the LORD and the way of the Torah. God and Ahijah’s disappointment with Jeroboam goes back to his practices which violated the commandments and introduced images into the worship of God.

The death of Abijah, the son of the king, in the manner which the prophet spoke should be a call to Jeroboam’s family to repentance. Like with Solomon, the LORD seems willing to delay the judgment to the following generation as Jeroboam sleeps with his ancestors and his son, Nadab succeeds him. Yet, God has spoken through the rough words of the prophet about the impending doom upon Jeroboam’s household. But before we can learn the fate of the household of Jeroboam we will revisit the kingdom of Judah under Solomon’s son, Rehoboam.

1 Kings 14: 21-31


21 Now Rehoboam son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city that the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. 22 Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD; they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their ancestors had done. 23 For they also built for themselves high places, pillars, and sacred poles on every high hill and under every green tree; 24 there were also male temple prostitutes in the land. They committed all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

25 In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, King Shishak of Egypt came up against Jerusalem; 26 he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house; he took everything. He also took away all the shields of gold that Solomon had made; 27 so King Rehoboam made shields of bronze instead, and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. 28 As often as the king went into the house of the LORD, the guard carried them and brought them back to the guardroom.

29 Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Judah? 30 There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. 31 Rehoboam slept with his ancestors and was buried with his ancestors in the city of David. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. His son Abijam succeeded him.

The wisdom of Solomon had been used to accumulate vast amounts of gold, create trading networks, acquire and trade in chariot and horses and dramatically reshape the tribes of Israel into a unified kingdom that was admired by Solomon’s neighbors. Five years later under Rehoboam the kingdom has split in two, the trading networks seem to have evaporated, and the military might and gold are returned to Egypt. The golden king is now succeeded by the son of brass and the sins of the father to create the high places where the Canaanite gods could be worshipped are continued by the son to disastrous consequences. Solomon’s peace has dissolved into Rehoboam’s continual warfare with Israel and his humiliation by King Shishak of Egypt.

Naamah, the mother of Rehoboam, is mentioned twice and may indicate the powerful role of the queen mother. It is possible that the author of 1 Kings views this Ammonite mother as a negative influence who encourages the religious practices that are labeled as abominations. These religious practices are labeled in two of the most rhetorically extreme terms: male prostitution and abominations. Although the meaning of the term that is rendered ‘male prostitution’ is debated it clearly refers to a practice that worshipers of the LORD found deeply offensive. (Brueggemann, 2000, p. 181) Yet, even though the practices in Judah may receive a harsh rhetorical judgment the line of David is allowed to continue.

Five years into the reign of Rehoboam the former trading partner of Solomon has become a military invader. King Shishak of Egypt rolls into Judah, humiliates the forces of Judah and pillages the golden stores of Solomon. Although the text does not explicitly indicate this is God’s judgment on the reign of Rehoboam[1] the positioning of this humiliation after the narration of the unfaithfulness of the people implies it. Yet, the LORD does not allow Judah to be overthrown, merely humiliated. The golden shields are replaced by bronze ones and they continue their conflicts with Israel. Yet, the seventeen-year reign of Rehoboam is not worth much consideration by the author of 1 Kings. He lives in the aftermath of Solomon’s glories and Solomon’s sins and dies the bronze son of the golden father.

[1] 2 Chronicles 12 does make this explicit link, but Rehoboam and the people 2 Chronicles humble themselves and submit to God, where 1 Kings has no indication of Rehoboam making any changes.

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