In 1 Kings 12 Jeroboam became king over “all Israel” (though in practice not Judah). And the text says, “And Jeroboam said in his heart, ‘Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of YHWH at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah’” (1 Kings 12:26-27).
He believed that centralized worship, a major concern of the book of Kings, would lead to a Davidic revival and his downfall.
The Golden Calves
So in a repetition of Aaron’s mistake in Exodus, Jeroboam made two calves of gold and said “Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28, cf. Exo 32:4). Aside from the first word in each, Jeroboam is quoting Aaron. He set one of the golden calves in Bethel and one in Dan. And they became snares for the people of Israel. Kings, no fan of the high places, also indicts Jeroboam with the following charge: “He also made temples on high places [literally “a house of high places”] and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites” (1 Kings 12:31).
As with the first golden calf (in Exodus), Jeroboam was creating a new religion. And so they had their own priests, they had their own feast, they had their own temple (singular, consisting of various high places, to compete with the temple at Jerusalem), and they had their own sacrifices offered. He created a religion in direct violation of the second commandment. Rather than following the pattern God revealed, he created a religion “devised from his own heart” (as it says about the timing of the feast he created) (1 Kings12:33). The first golden calf episode also was the creation of a new religion, also without the Ten Words.
The Man of God
Therefore, “a man of God came out of Judah by the word of YHWH to Bethel” (1 Kings 13:1). This was when and where the feast was to be. “And the man cried against the altar by the word of YHWH and said, ‘O altar, altar, thus says YHWH: ‘Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you”” (1 Kings 13:2). Note first that the Hebrew name Josiah looks like “fire of YHWH.” Note second that the king named Josiah would not reign until 2 Kings 22:1 and fulfills all this in 2 Kings 23:15ff.
As is often the case when the fulfillment will be delayed, there was a sign to verify the message was from YHWH. The sign here was that the altar would be torn down and the ashes on it would be poured out (1 Kings 13:3) and the fulfillment was shortly afterward (1 Kings 13:5). Jeroboam tried to seize the man of God and his hand dried up, so that he could not draw it back to himself until the man of God interceded for Jeroboam and Jeroboam’s hand was healed. There was “an old prophet” (a false prophet in this instance) in Bethel who tracked down the man of God and tricked him into eating with him.
Because the man of God had been disobedient to God by eating, God spoke through the old prophet and said that he would not “come to the tomb of your fathers.” Sure enough, on the road home, he was killed by a lion and his body was buried in the tomb of the old prophet. And the old prophet told his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave in which the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. For the saying that he called out by the word of YHWH against the altar in Bethel and against all the houses of the high places that are in the cities of Samaria shall surely come to pass” (1 Kings 13:31-32).
Scene 1: Man of God confronts king
Scene 2: king tempts man of God
Scene 3: old prophet tempts man of God
Scene 4: old prophet confronts man of God
Thus what the old prophet prophecies will happen to the man of God, and does happen immediately, will also happen to king Jeroboam. Man does not live by bread alone but by all that comes from the mouth of YHWH.
Thus the lesson is that if even prophets cannot escape God’s judgment than neither can kings. And yet we read:
“After this thing Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way, but made priests for the high places again from among all the people. And who would, he ordained to be priests of the high places. And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth (or land)” (1 Kings 13:33-34).
His effort to build a religious house to protect his house leads to the cutting off of his own house.
Rehoboam and Jeroboam
It appears that there is at least a loose chiasm of the whole section concerning Rehoboam of Judah and Jeroboam of Israel. Chapter 12 begins with Rehoboam and we find him again in the last section of chapter 14. In the middle is the situation with Jeroboam – complete with prophecies against the altar, against the man of God of Judah, and against Jeroboam.
The last section of chapter 12 and the conclusion to chapter 13 have some similar statements – both mention “this thing became [a] sin…” and about him making priests from among all the people. The first mention of the golden calves becoming a sin says, “for the people went as far as Dan to be before one” (1 Kings 12:30). Thus it stresses the impact on the nation of Israel. The second mention of the new religion says that it became sin “to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth/land” (1 kings 13:34).
And before the concluding formula for Jeroboam in the next chapter, the text says that YHWH will raise up a king over Israel who will cut off the house of Jeroboam and that He will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin. Thus this time it weaves the two points made before together.
These similar features lead me to see 1 Kings 12:25-33 as a unit, 1 Kings 13 as a unit, and 1 Kings 14:1-20 as a unit.
Thus I propose the following chiasm:
What the chiasm helps us to see is that the prophecy against Jeroboam is in response to the golden calves. The prophet Ahijah tells Jeroboam’s wife to tell her husband: “Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over my people Israel and tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, and 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 eyes, but you have done evil above all who were before you and…
“have gone and made for yourself other gods and metal images, provoking me to anger, and have cast me behind your back…” (1 Kings 14:7-9).
Remember the criticism of Solomon was that he did not keep the commandments of God and follow YHWH with all his heart. Solomon’s devotion was divided between YHWH and his wives. Jeroboam though is much worse. He did “evil above all [the kings] who were before you.” Jeroboam’s house will be cut off, all his male descendants would die, because he made the golden calves to lead Israel into false worship.
The other thing the chiasm does is to highlight the fact that Israel and Judah are both doing the same sins and can expect the same judgment.
Thus the whole chiasm begins and ends with the king of Judah and at the climax is the story about the man of God from Judah who died when He disobeyed God. Note on the next slide how similar these lines are to what the prophet Ahijah said about Jeroboam.
And Judah did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim [cf. 1 Kings 14:15 for Jeroboam] on every high hill and under every green tree, and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that YHWH drove out before the people of Israel (1 Kings 14:22-24).
This final section begins noting that Rehoboam’s mother was Naamah the Ammonite (1 Kings 14:21) and ends noting that his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite (1 Kings 14:31). No doubt this is on purpose. But it is interesting that the focus is not on the sins of Rehoboam, as it usually is in the conclusions about kings in the book, but on the sins of Judah. The nation is following the lead of her king and will face judgment as a result.
The end statements regarding Jeroboam and Rehoboam follow a similar format. One we have seen already, and will continue to see for the kings in the book.
“Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. And the time that Jeroboam reigned was 22 years. And he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his place” (1 Kings 14:19-20).
“Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David. His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. And Abijam his son reigned in his place” (1 Kings 14:29-31).
Kings now will date each king by the year of the king of the other kingdom. This has the effect of inviting a comparison between the kingdoms. “Now in the eighteenth year of King Jeroboam the son of Nebat, Abijam began to reign over Judah. He reigned for three years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Maacah the daughter of Abishalom. And he walked in all the sins that his father did before him, and his heart was not wholly true to YHWH his God, as the heart of David his father. Nevertheless, for David’s sake YHWH his God gave him a lamp in Jerusalem, setting up his son after him, and establishing Jerusalem,
Because David did what was right in the eyes of YHWH and did not turn aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Kings 15:1-5).
Interesting that again the matter of Uriah the Hittite is mentioned. Could it be that the real reason YHWH showed favor to David’s house was because He chose David – not because David was especially obedient, but chosen and forgiven.
The cycle continues with a statement also mentioned in the epilogue concerning Rehoboam his father.
“Now there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all the days of his life. The rest of the acts of Abijam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? And there was war between Abijam and Jeroboam. And Abijam slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city of David. And Asa his son reigned in his place” (1 Kings 15:6-8).
The text then continues with Abijam’s son Asa as king following much the same pattern. Like his father, he is evaluated in comparison to David: “And Asa did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, as David his father had done. He put away the male cult prostitutes out of the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. He also removed Maacah his mother from being queen mother because she had an abominable image for Asherah. And Asa cut down her image and burned it at the brook Kidron. But the high places were not taken away” (1 Kings 15:11-14).
What the king did about the high places is a continual refrain. The text goes on to say that “Asa was wholly true to YHWH all his days” (1 Kings 15:14). Yet it is clear that he falls short because of the failure to remove the high places.
The text also notes war between Judah and Israel. “And there was war between Asa and Baasha king of Israel all their days” (1 Kings 15:16). This is the first time Baasha has been mentioned. During these wars Asa made a treaty-alliance with Syria.
And what it had said earlier in favor of Asa, that he brought into the house of YHWH sacred gifts, silver, gold, and vessels, is now reversed as Asa takes these things out of the treasury and gives them to the king of Syria. And the text has a similar conclusion to the others before except that it adds, “But in his old age he was diseased in his feet” (1 Kings 15:23). If this is a Davidic revival, it is pretty lame (pun intended). Asa has shown us how even the good kings of Judah will fall short.
Kings of Israel
The text next covers the kings of Israel. Jeroboam’s son Nadab is first (1 Kings 15:25-32), second is Baasha the son of Ahijah of the house of Issachar (1 Kings 15:33-16:7), third is Elah the son of Baasha (1 Kings 16:8-14), then Zimri the servant of Elah (1 Kings 16:15-20), and Omri the commander of the army (1 Kings 16:21-28), and Ahab the son of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34).
We will begin next time discussing these kings and then get started in the narratives concerning Elijah.