Under Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel flourished. Because of Solomon’s God given wisdom, he was able to build the Temple for God to dwell with His people, and establish Israel as an economic power. However with his money and fame, Solomon gave into the temptations that come with amassing wealth and wives. As a result, idol worship and possibly child sacrifice occurred in the land of Israel. Additionally, because of Solomon’s forced labor the people of Israel were having rebellious thoughts against their king. After forty years of reign, Solomon passes the throne to His son Rehoboam with a marred reputation.
Jeroboam, of whom it had been prophesied that he would rule over 10 tribes of Israel, came with all of Israel to question Rehoboam to see if he would be as harsh as his father, Solomon. They said, if Rehoboam would grant reprieve of forced labor, they would serve Rehoboam faithfully. Rehoboam told them to come back in three days. He asked the elders and the young friends with whom he was raised what he should do. The elders instructed him to give the people their wish and relax the forced labor. However, the friends of Rehoboam told him to be even more harsh than his father to send a message. Rehoboam, taking the advice of the younger group, told Israel of his intentions to be harsh. At hearing this word, ten of the tribes of Israel broke away from Rehoboam to follow Jeroboam as the King of Israel in the North. This left Rehoboam as King of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the South. Rehoboam desired to make war on the North to bring them back into his Kingdom, but God, through his prophets, warned against it.
This split was momentous in the life of Israel. Occurring in 930 BC, Both Israel in the North and Judah in the south would remain divided until each would be conquered and exiled in the years 722 BC (Israel/North) and 587 BC (Judah/South). The period of the divided kingdom would be one of great turmoil in both the North and the South with brief periods of peace mixed in.
In the North, Jeroboam believed that if the people were allowed to travel to Jerusalem and worship at the temple, the people would leave him and go back to serve Rehoboam in the South. Consequently, Jeroboam erected two Golden Calves and proclaimed them as the gods of Israel. He placed them in two cities to make travel more convenient for the worshippers in the North. Thus the ten tribes of the North prevert their worship of God. Elijah, Elisha, Amos, and Hosea are prophets who are sent to the North to call them back to God. However after 200 years, many unfaithful kings, and countless warnings, the Assyrians conquer and scatter the ten tribes throughout their empire. They also bring other conquered nations in to settle in the North which forms the region of Samaria to be of Gentile influence.
In the South, right exterior worship in the temple remains, but the hearts of the people continually stray. Some kings are faithful to God, and He shows his love and mercy in those kingships. However, the majority of kings fail to follow God’s commands. Yet, the Davidic line of kings remains as God sends the prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and others to call the South out of their stony hearts to care for the poor and worship God in their hearts. After twenty kings and many ignored warnings, Judah is conquered by the Babylonians and they are exiled. The loss of their homeland finally sends the message to the Jews that they need to return to God. For seventy years, the Jews remained in exile and the land of Israel was given rest.
The split of the nation of Israel and their exiles teach us about the spiritual life. Where the Israelites are geographically is used to show where they are spiritually. As long as they are faithful to God, they will remain united in their homeland. However, the consequence of their sin is that they will be split and then removed from their homeland. In addition, Jeremiah the prophet saw the presence of God leave the temple in the final days of the South. Not only did the Jews lose their homeland, but they lost the presence of God as well. These physical consequences of spiritual matters teach us something about ourselves. As Jesus tells us, our words and actions reveal the disposition of the soul. If our soul is faithful to God, then the work of our hands will bear spiritual fruit. If our soul is unfaithful, our actions will reflect our selfishness.
Despite the atrocities that occur in the North and the South, God remains faithful to His people. He allows them to freely choose for or against Him, and despite their choices, He reveals more of Himself to them through both justice and mercy. Ultimately, with the scattering of Israel to the nations, the stage has been set for a Messiah to bring all the tribes back again. In doing so, his reach will extend not only to the scattered Israelites but also to all the nations amongst which they have been scattered.