Today’s reading is 1 Kings 12-16, Psalm 88, and Luke 16-17.
One of the things I love about reading the Bible over and over again is picking up on new ideas. When reading the Bible in large amounts, such as five chapters at a time, parts of the story shine through differently than they may have before.
1 Kings is the story of the twelve tribes of Israel, united under David and Solomon, be torn a part by Rehoboam. The story gets a little confusing because the Jereboam is given the northern ten tribes to rule and sometimes keeping Rehoboam and Jereboam, and the subsequent kings, all in order, can be tricky.
What I noticed today was that Jereboam was given the same promise by God that Rehoboam was. I think I was always under the impression that only Rehoboam, and his descendants, were given the promise of always having their descendant on the throne, because of David’s faithfulness, but Jereboam was given this promise as well. The difference, is that the promise to Rehoboam is not contingent on the behavior of the kings and the people where as the promise to Jereboam was.
When the Israelites came up out of Egypt, God told them if they didn’t turn from His commands, if they didn’t go after other God’s, they would forever be in the land. We know this doesn’t happen (Assyrian and Babylonian Captivities). But he also tells Saul that if he obeyed Him, his descendants would be on the throne forever. That doesn’t happen (1 Samuel 13:13). So God hands over the kingdom to David and given the same promise, which David succeeds in obeying (2 Samuel 7:15-16).
What I had never noticed is that the promise is given to Jereboam as well:
“However, as for you, I will take you, and you will rule over all that your heart desires; you will be king over Israel. 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. “1 Kings 11:37-38 emphasis added
God tells Jereboam that his family line can rule Israel forever, just like Rehoboam’s line (because of David) will rule Judah forever. All Jereboam has to do is do whatever God commands him, walk in obedience to Him, and obey His decrees and commands.
What does this look like? It looks like being a fair and just ruler. I looks like seeking God to know when to go to war and when to be at peace. But mostly, it looks like worshipping correctly, tearing down high places, and following the laws of the Levitical priesthood.
But Jereboam just can’t manage to do this.
Jereboam begins being king of Israel. All of Israel loves him, prefers him over Rehoboam. But, even with this, he has this fear: “Jeroboam thought to himself, ‘The kingdom will now likely revert to the house of David. If these people go up to offer sacrifices at the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, they will again give their allegiance to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam'” (1 Kings 12:26-27). So what does Jereboam do? He does exactly what the Israelites did in the desert when Moses went up the mountain with God.
Jereboam casts two golden calves and tells the people “it is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28). He then goes on to build other high places for people to worship at and places his own priests over them who are not Levites. In a short amount of time he allows his fear of the people’s allegiance overcome his trust in God.
God tells Jereboam, “If you follow me, I will make things work out for you and your descendants.” But what Jereboam hears is, “I need to keep the people on my side so it will work out for me and my descenants.
God gives the prophet Ahijah this message about Jereboam’s sins: “You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me” (1 Kings 14:9). The outcome of his sins are disaster on his house:
“Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!”1 Kings 14:10-11
Eventually Jereboam dies and his son, Nadab, becomes king. But trouble quickly comes and Nadab only reigns for two years. Baasha from the tribe of Issachar strikes him down and takes over as king. As the prophet prophesized, all of Jereboam’s male heirs are struck down. Baasha is king and like Jereboam and Nadab, and he did evil in the eyes of the Lord (1 Kings 15:34).
While the text does not mention that God gives Baasha the same promise he gave to Jereboam, David, and Saul, it seems that He did. After Baasha does evil and continues in the ways of Jereboam, God gives this word to Jehu concerning Baasha:
“I lifted you up from the dust and appointed you ruler over my people Israel, but you followed the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to arouse my anger by their sins. So I am about to wipe out Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat.”1 Kings 16:1-3
Do you see that? While we do not have the promise to Baasha, we have the same consequences. Because Baasha worshipped at the high places and committed wicked acts, he and his house will be wiped out. His house will not ruler over Israel.
I cannot be certain because the text doesn’t state it, but it seems that God gives this promise to each one of Israel’s new kings: be faithful and your descendants will forever be on the throne.
Eventually, as we know, God allows Israel to be taken over, carried off by the Assyrians. Unlike when Judah is carried off by Babylon and then brought back, Israel never returns. Because of David, Judah stays together, remains a nation. That nation looks a little different during and after the captivity as they are not independent, they are still Judah and there is always the promise that David’s descendant will be back on Judah’s throne (Jesus).
None of Israel’s king could be faithful to God. None of Israel’s kings could figure out how to follow the Law. And so none of them were given the promise.
The Bible always has something “new” for us. We may not see it every time. We may not always find it, but God always has new insights. This was my recent new insight. What is yours?
Join me in finishing this year by reading through the Bible through a Psalm a Day. Find my reading plan here.
All Scripture used on Oregon Christian Girl comes from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Unless otherwise noted.