Understanding The Bible
Clarence E. Mason's "OLD TESTAMENT
The History of Israel: Part 6b
THE DIVIDED KINGDOM:
THE NORTHERN KINGDOM
TO THE TIME OF OMRI (Period 1, Northern), and
THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM
THROUGH THE TIME OF JEHOSHAPHAT (Period 1, Southern)
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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible
- DIVIDED KINGDOM (I)
- THE NORTHERN KINGDOM TO THE TIME OF OMRI (Period 1,
- Jeroboam I (22 years)
Solomon’s reign, although it brought great
wealth to Israel, was also a time of great taxation. Rehoboam, Solomon’s
son, refused to promise a reduction of taxes. Jeroboam returned from exile
in Egypt, and led the revolt. He was a self-made man with real ability; he
carefully laid the foundation of the new nation. He is the only important
king in the first period of Israelite history, a period of 50 years which
saw the northern kingdom established. (During the Divided Kingdom
(henceforth abbreviated D.K.), the term “Israel” refers to the northern
kingdom alone; although both before and after the D.K. the term usually
refers to the whole Hebrew people.
In judging Israelite (and some Judean) kings, it is customary to state
their religious positions, G standing for good, E for evil. In respect to
evil, Scripture differentiates between the sin of Jeroboam ben Nebat, and
that of Ahab (1 Ki. 12:26-33; 16:31-33). Jeroboam’s sin consisted in
trying to represent Jehovah the God of Israel by an image, a breech of the
second commandment. Since God refuses such worship, Jeroboam’s cult was
idolatrous. Ahab’s sin (via Jezebel, his Phoenician queen) was the
importation of a false god, the Tyrian baal—one of the Canaanite deities
(see note, p. 30). This revival of Canaanite worship in Israel was met and
defeated by the vigorous campaigns of Elijah and Elisha. Ahab’s sin is
considered worse than Jeroboam’s.
- Nadab ben Jeroboam (2 years);
unimportant. (The word “ben” means “son of.”)
- Baasha (24 years); an
usurper. Note his cruelty.
- Elah ben Baasha (2 years)
- Zimri (7 days); an
After a reign of one week, Omri contested the throne and Zimri committed
suicide. A three or four year struggle between Omri and Tibni followed.
- THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM THROUGH THE TIME OF JEHOSHAPHAT
(Period 1, Southern)
- Rehoboam (17 years)
Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, was not a capable
statesman. His lack of political foresight cost him the better part of his
kingdom. After Jeroboam I’s revolt, only Judah and Benjamin, together with
most of the Levites, remained loyal to the Davidic regime in Jerusalem.
Although Judah (as the southern kingdom was called because of the dominant
Judah tribe) had Jerusalem, the temple, and the Davidic dynasty, it was
small and usually weak when compared with Israel.
Rehoboam attempted to bring back the ten revolting tribes by force, a
policy followed by his immediate successors, but was unsuccessful. Indeed,
he was greatly weakened by the plundering of Jerusalem by Shishak, a
Libyan soldier who had usurped the throne of Egypt. Shishak records this
raid on one of the walls of the great temple at Karnak on the Nile and
there also claims to have raided Israelite cities as well. Egypt was at
this time in its final decline. The burial chamber of Shishak was
discovered in northern Egypt in 1938. It showed faint glory when compared
with the great Pharaohs of earlier days.
- Abijah (3 years)
Continued his father’s policy of war with
- Asa (41 years)
A good king, he instituted many reforms and even
was able to persuade some Israelites (no doubt a pious remnant) to come
over to Judah to keep the Feast of Weeks and make a covenant with the
Judeans. He was not able, however, to persuade the people to cease
worshiping the Lord at their own high places. Indeed, this was almost
never accomplished by any king (SRB, p. 408, n. 1). Asa fortified his
cities, no doubt especially the cities on his northern border, for he
also fought intermittently with Israel.
Note Asa’s reliance on Syrian help against Israel (2 Chr. 16:1-10). This
precedent of getting help from one foreign nation against an enemy nation
(instead of trusting God) was widely followed during the whole D.K.
period. It was always condemned by God and helped to lead to Judah’s
- Jehoshaphat (25 years)
Another good king. His reign of revival brings
to an end the first period of Judean history—the first decline (under
Rehoboam, Abijah) and revival (Asa, Jehoshaphat). Note that “decline” and
“revival” refer to the spiritual life of the nation, although often
political revival followed spiritual awakening (2 Chr. 7:14).
Jehoshaphat’s reign was one of revival and of great prosperity. His
greatest mistake was his league with Ahab. Jehoshaphat and Ahab of Israel
inaugurated a new policy—that of peace and cooperation between Judah and
Israel—and sealed this policy by the marriage of Ahab’s daughter Athaliah
to Jehoshaphat’s son Jehoram. The unfortunate effects of this union, and
also of Jehoshaphat’s constant cooperation with wicked Ahab, will be
noted later. Jehoshaphat tried to revive the Ezion-geber operations which
Solomon had used so successfully, but failed in the attempt.
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