“1 Kings 12–16: A Kingdom Divided against Itself,” Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi (1982), 41–50
“Chapter 4,” Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, 41–50
The Lord has said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matthew 12:25). A great lesson to be learned in life is to live in harmony with others. Where there is disharmony, unhappiness and tragedy result. On the other hand, where there is harmony, happiness and progress follow. Not only is this true in nations or kingdoms, but it is also true in personal and family relationships. Harmonious relationships can be developed and enhanced by understanding and applying insights from the scriptures.
As you complete your study of this chapter, notice how the kings of Israel and Judah present both good and bad examples of the application of these principles.
Rehoboam was the son and successor of King Solomon (see 1 Kings 11:43). The Bible does not mention any other sons or daughters of Solomon. Since Rehoboam’s mother, Naamah, was an Ammonite (see 1 Kings 14:21), he was only half Israelite. But his mother’s ancestry was Semitic since the Ammonites were descendants of Lot, Abraham’s nephew.
From the early years after the settlement of Israel in Canaan, there had been jealousy between the two most powerful tribes, Ephraim and Judah. Solomon’s son Rehoboam was the rightful successor to the throne, but northern Israel did not support him. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch explained why:
“Apart from the fact that the tribes had no right to choose at their pleasure a different king from the one who was the lawful heir to the throne of David, the very circumstance that the tribes who were discontented with Solomon’s government did not come to Jerusalem to do homage to Rehoboam, but chose Sichem [Shechem] as the place of meeting, and had also sent for Jeroboam out of Egypt, showed clearly enough that it was their intention to sever themselves from the royal house of David. …
“Rehoboam went to Shechem, because all Israel had come thither to make him king. ‘All Israel,’ according to what follows [compare 1 Kings 12:20–21], was the ten tribes beside Judah and Benjamin. The right of making king the prince whom God has chosen, i.e. of anointing him and doing homage to him … , was an old traditional right in Israel, and the tribes had exercised it not only in the case of Saul and David [see 1 Samuel 11:15; 2 Samuel 2:4; 5:3], but in that of Solomon also [see 1 Chronicles 29:22]. The ten tribes of Israel made use of this right on Rehoboam’s ascent of the throne; but instead of coming to Jerusalem, the residence of the king and capital of the kingdom, as they ought to have done, and doing homage there to the legitimate successor of Solomon, they had gone to Sichem, the present Nabulus [see Genesis 12:6; 33:18], the place where the ancient national gatherings were held in the tribe of Ephraim [see Joshua 24:1]. … On the choice of Sichem as the place for doing homage Kimchi has quite correctly observed, that ‘they sought an opportunity for transferring the government to Jeroboam, and therefore were unwilling to come to Jerusalem, but came to Sichem, which belonged to Ephraim, whilst Jeroboam was an Ephraimite.’ If there could be any further doubt on the matter, it would be removed by the fact that they had sent for Jeroboam the son of Nebat to come from Egypt, whither he had fled from Solomon [see 1 Kings 11:40], and attend this meeting, and that Jeroboam took the lead in the meeting, and no doubt suggested to those assembled the demand which they should lay before Rehoboam.” (Commentary on the Old Testament, 3:1:191–93.)
This national meeting in which Rehoboam sought a vote of confidence was an important event. Life in Israel was never to be the same thereafter.
Jeroboam was the son of Nebat (see 1 Kings 12:15), an Ephraimite. He was one of Solomon’s twelve superintendents and had jurisdiction over all the taxes and labors exacted from the house of Joseph (see 1 Kings 11:28). The prophet Ahijah had prophesied that Jeroboam would someday take over much of the Israelite nation. To illustrate his prophecy, Ahijah tore a cloak in twelve pieces, gave ten to Jeroboam, and said: “Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (but he shall have one tribe for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel:)” (1 Kings 11:31–32.) Thus, he prophetically outlined events which would soon transpire.
All of Samuel’s prophecies about Israel’s having a king were fulfilled in Solomon’s reign. Israel desired relief from the burdens of Solomon’s extravagance, which had brought upon them exorbitant taxes and conscript labor. The yoke mentioned here was symbolic of that burden.
One scholar noted that “Solomon’s kingdom barely outlived him. At his death his son and heir, Rehoboam, sought to ascend the throne of Israel and Judah. There was no difficulty in the south. The elders of Judah were no doubt pleased to anoint another native son to continue the rule which had favored Judah in so many ways. In the north, in Israel, it was a different story altogether. Before there was to be an acclamation of any son of Solomon, there must be some plain talk about certain policies of state which the men of the northern hills and valleys thought discriminatory if not unbearable. Forced labor gangs for royal building projects simply must not continue. Heavy and inequitable taxation favoring Judah would have to be modified. The new king would either have to find other ways to carry out his personal and imperial ambitions or else temper his desires. In any case, the northern tribes were clearly unwilling to bear the brunt of the monarchical burden. Underlying these real grievances was the reviving strength of the tribal elders. Solomon had not completely destroyed their power after all.” (Harry Thomas Frank, Discovering the Biblical World, p. 99.)
The episode recorded in these verses demonstrates the value of age when wise counsel is needed. Because of their experience, older people are generally wiser than younger people. But because of their great energy and ability to adapt, youth can be very effective leaders. It is often best to allow the wisdom of the aged to guide the energy of youth. (Concerning the wisdom of the counsel given to Rehoboam by the old men, compare 1 Kings 12:7; Matthew 20:25–28; 23:11–12; Mosiah 2:9–18.)
The reference to scorpions (see 1 Kings 12:14) seems to be an allusion to scourges or whips made of several thongs of leather which had metal barbs embedded in the ends (see William Smith, A Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “scorpion”). Rehoboam was simply announcing that he would deal even more sternly with the tribes of Israel than Solomon had.
Those assembled made it clear that they no longer considered themselves to be part of the house of David (Judah). They rebelled against the dominion of Rehoboam and moved to establish their own kingdom. “To your tents” is an idiom meaning “Let’s go home!” (D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 337; see also 1 Kings 12:19; 2 Samuel 20:1–2; 2 Chronicles 10:16). The northern tribes withdrew their allegiance from Rehoboam and the house of David and said in essence, “David, you take care of your own house. We will no longer be associated nor have an inheritance with you” (see Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 2:436).
Rehoboam must not have thought the people were serious about their rebellion, for he sent Adoram to them. Since Adoram “was the person who was superintendent over the tribute, he was probably sent to collect the ordinary taxes; but the people, indignant at the master who had given them such a brutish answer [to their request for relief from burdens], stoned the servant to death. The sending of Adoram to collect the taxes, when the public mind was in such a state of fermentation [particularly after they had disavowed any allegiance to Rehoboam], was another proof of Rehoboam’s folly and incapacity to govern.” (Clarke, Commentary, 2:436.)
“These ‘sons of Israel’ are members of the ten tribes who had settled in Judah in the course of ages [compare 1 Kings 12:23]; and the Simeonites especially are included, since they were obliged to remain in the kingdom of Judah from the very situation of their tribe-territory, and might very well be reckoned among the Israelites who dwelt in the cities of Judah, inasmuch as at first the whole of their territory was allotted to the tribe of Judah, from which they afterwards received a portion [see Joshua 19:1].” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:1:196.)
First Kings 12:17 has particular interest for students of the Book of Mormon. This passage helps to explain why such men as Lehi and Nephi, who were descendants of Manasseh (see Alma 10:3), and the family of Ishmael, who were descendants of Ephraim (see 1 Nephi 7:2; Erastus Snow, in Journal of Discourses, 23:184), were living in the land of Jerusalem several generations after Rehoboam. Laban, a record-keeper for the tribe of Joseph, also lived in Jerusalem at the time of Lehi and Ishmael (see 1 Nephi 3:2–4). This matter is explained more fully in 2 Chronicles 11:13–17and 15:9 than in 1 Kings.
Kings of Judah
Kings of Israel
1 Kings 22:51–2Kings 1
The dating in this chart represents a consensus of commonly held views of scholars. The dates are best taken as approximate and may differ slightly from those in other chronologies.
Chronological correlation of the reigns of the kings of Israel and of Judah
The statement “there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only” is true only in very general terms. The members of the tribe of Benjamin, long associated with the tribe of Judah, and the Levites already living in and near Jerusalem and serving in the temple must also be included with Judah (see 1 Kings 12:21). Also, once Jeroboam established idolatry, many Levites and no doubt righteous individuals from all of the northern tribes migrated to the kingdom of Judah.
With the kingdom divided, the ten tribes could not conveniently worship in the temple at Jerusalem because Judah controlled the city. Jeroboam, concerned with keeping Israel under his control, devised a new scheme for worship that would cause his people to worship away from Jerusalem. He built two golden calves in northern cities and invited his people to worship them. Adam Clarke said that Jeroboam “invented a political religion, instituted feasts in his own times different from those appointed by the Lord, gave the people certain objects of devotion, and pretended to think it would be both inconvenient and oppressive to them to have to go up to Jerusalem to worship. This was not the last time that religion was made a state engine to serve political purposes.” (Commentary, 2:437.)
Even though he made golden calves, “that Jeroboam had in his mind not merely the Egyptian Apis- worship generally, but more especially the image-worship which Aaron introduced for the people at Sinai, is evident from the words borrowed from [Exodus 32:4], with which he studiously endeavoured to recommend his new form of worship to the people: ‘Behold, this is thy God, O Israel, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.’ … What Jeroboam meant to say … was, ‘this is no new religion, but this was the form of worship which our fathers used in the desert, with Aaron himself leading the way.’ … And whilst the verbal allusion to that event at Sinai plainly shows that … Jehovah was worshipped under the image of the calves or young oxen; the choice of the places in which the golden calves were set up also shows that Jeroboam desired to adhere as closely as possible to ancient traditions. He did not select his own place of residence, but Bethel and Dan. Bethel, on the southern border of his kingdom, which properly belonged to the tribe of Benjamin [see Joshua 18:13, 22], the present Beitin, had already been consecrated as a divine seat by the vision of Jehovah which the patriarch Jacob received there in a dream [see Genesis 28:11, 19], and Jacob gave it the name of Bethel, house of God, and afterwards built an altar there to the Lord [see Genesis 35:7]. … Dan, in the northern part of the kingdom, … was also consecrated as a place of worship by the image-worship established there by the Danites, at which even a grandson of Moses had officiated; and regard may also have been had to the convenience of the people, namely, that the tribes living in the north would not have to go a long distance to perform their worship.” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:1:198–99.)
In ordaining a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, Jeroboam subverted the great feast of Tabernacles (which was held on the fifteenth day of the seventh month). He held a similar feast but at the same time undermined the ordinance. (See Clarke, Commentary, 2:437–38.)
Jeroboam cast off the Levite priests (see 2 Chronicles 11:14; 13:19) and ordained “priests of the lowest of the people” (1 Kings 12:31), allowing any to be appointed if they would just consecrate themselves by offering “a young bullock and seven rams” (2 Chronicles 13:9). He also assumed priestly functions himself (see 1 Kings 12:33). His rejection of the Levites resulted in their evacuation from his kingdom and uniting themselves with the kingdom of Rehoboam in Jerusalem (see 2 Chronicles 11:13–16).
“The pouring out of the sacrificial ashes in consequence of the breaking up of the altar was a penal sign, which indicated, along with the destruction of the altar, the desecration of the sacrificial service performed upon it” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:1:204).
True prophets obey the word of God; false prophets do not. In this story are two prophets, one pictured as lying and the other pictured as disobeying God’s instructions. Ellis T. Rasmussen wrote: “There are some problems in this story of the man of God who came from Judah to warn the king of northern Israel and lost his life in the mission. Some help is available in the [Joseph Smith Translation] of verse 18, which indicates that the old prophet said, ‘Bring him back … that I may prove him; and he lied not unto him.’ Also there is a change in verse 26, in which the last part reads: ‘… therefore the Lord hath delivered him unto the lion, which hath torn him, and slain him, according to the word of the Lord, which he spake unto me.’ These make the account more understandable and more acceptable. The young prophet should have obeyed God.” (An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings, 2:4; emphasis added.)
This passage means that the “man of God that came from Judah” (1 Kings 13:21) would meet an untimely death and not be buried in his homeland. The ancient Hebrews believed it a great tragedy not to be buried properly.
Perhaps Jeroboam felt that the prophet of the Lord would listen or yield more to a mother’s enticings than to a father’s. Certainly he knew that he was not worthy to ask for any blessings from the Lord. This incident teaches the great lesson that one should live so that in a crisis he can call upon the Lord with confidence and faith. Jeroboam could not do so, and so he sent his wife instead. He also caused her to be disguised so that she might not be recognized as his wife. He had her take a gift to the prophet, as was considered proper in such instances, but the gift was the kind that a common citizen’s wife would take, thus adding to the deception.
Ahijah was blind, or at least his eyes had become so weak with his old age that he could hardly see. The phrase “his eyes were set” indicates that he could not properly focus and follow images.
This fallen world is rampant with deception and dishonesty. Though men often deceive one another, the Lord’s anointed can draw upon the gift of revelation and thereby see into the hearts of others or have things made known to them which cannot be obtained through the natural senses (see Jacob 2:5; Job 42:1; 1 Kings 8:39; Hebrews 4:12–13; D&C 6:16; 33:1).
There is an error in this verse. In the Joseph Smith Translation the verse reads as follows: “And rent the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it thee, because he kept not my commandments. But thou hast not been as my servant David, when he followed me with all his heart only to do right in mine eyes.” (Emphasis added; see also JST, 1 Kings 11:33, 38; 15:3, 5, 11.)
“The expression, to cast God behind the back, which only occurs here and in [Ezekiel 23:35], denotes the most scornful contempt of God, the strict opposite of ‘keeping God before the eyes and in the heart’” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:1:210–11).
Though this phrase is offensive to modern readers, it was not so when the King James Version was translated, nor was it in ancient times. The Hebrew idiom originally meant “every male.” The phrase “is only met within passages which speak of the destruction of a family or household to the very last man [see also 1 Kings 14:10; 16:11; 21:21; 2 Kings 9:8]” (Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 2:2:242). The same idea occurs in modern revelation without the offensive expression in Doctrine and Covenants 121:15.
The prophet indicated that all of Jeroboam’s posterity would be slain and none would receive a proper burial except his son “because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord” (1 Kings 14:13). Among the Hebrews, to be unburied is the worst thing that can happen to a dead person (see Philip Birnbaum, A Book of Jewish Concepts, p. 531; Notes and Commentary on 1 Kings 13:22).
This passage refers to the captivity of the ten tribes of Israel: “After many minor losses in war the kingdom of Israel met an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the Assyrians, in or about the year 721 B.C. We read that Shalmanezer IV, king of Assyria, besieged Samaria, the third and last capital of the kingdom, and that after three years the city was taken by Sargon, Shalmanezer’s successor. The people of Israel were carried captive into Assyria and distributed among the cities of the Medes. Thus was the dread prediction of Ahijah to the wife of Jeroboam fulfilled. Israel was scattered beyond the river, probably the Euphrates, and from the time of this event the Ten Tribes are lost to history.” (James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, pp. 322–23.)
Second Chronicles 13:1–20 records some of the “rest of the acts of Jeroboam.” Reference is made in 1 Kings 14:19and other places to “the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel” (or Judah; see 1 Kings 14:29). These references are not to the present books of Chronicles but to official records kept by the kings, which were used as source books by the author or authors of the present books of Kings. These records are lost to us.
After the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan, they began to adopt many of the practices and religious rites of the corrupt heathen nations that surrounded them. For example, they followed many of the aspects of Baalism. The sun god Baal, the supreme god of the Phoenicians, was a fertility god. Those who worshiped Baal felt that such worship would ensure the generative and reproductive power of the soil and their animals as well as themselves. Settled in Canaan, Israel became a more sedentary, agricultural people, whereas before they had been more nomadic. Their dependence upon the productivity of the soil enticed them to turn to the worship of Baal. In such worship, with its emphasis on fertility, such practices as ritual prostitution of both sexes became rampant. Those who engaged in such practices were referred to by the Lord as sodomites. Other terms, such as high places, images (idols), groves, high hills, green trees, were all associated with the false and reprehensible forms of worship that often led Israel far from the Lord and that Judah, too, practiced under Rehoboam and at other times: “Among early nations it was the custom to erect altars on hilltops (Gen. 12:7–8; 22:2–4; 31:54). After the settlement in Canaan heathen altars were found set up on various hills and were ordered to be destroyed (Num. 33:52; Deut. 12:2–3). Altars to Jehovah were built at several high places (Judg. 6:25–26; 1 Sam. 9:12–25; 10:5, 13; 1 Chr. 21:26; 1 Kgs. 3:2–4; 18:30). Such altars became local centers of the worship of Jehovah. When idolatry came in, many of these altars were desecrated and used for heathen worship.” (Bible Dictionary, s.v. “high places.”)
Concerning the sanctuaries wherein worship of Baal took place, one author explained: “Each place has its own Baal, who is worshipped at the local sanctuary. The sanctuary is at an elevated spot outside the town or village, either on a natural eminence or on a mound artificially made for the purpose; these are the ‘high places’ of the Old Testament; originally Canaanite places of worship, they drew to themselves also the worship of Israel. The apparatus of worship at these shrines is of a very simple nature. An upright stone represents the god. … He was supposed to come to the stone when meeting with his worshippers; and in the earliest times of Semitic religion this stone served the purpose of an altar: the gifts, which were not originally burned, were laid upon it, or the blood of the victim was applied to it. But besides the altar and the upright stone of massebah the Canaanite shrine had another piece of furniture. A massive tree-trunk, fixed in the ground and with some of its branches perhaps still remaining, represented the female deity who is the invariable companion of the Baal. This is the Ashera of Canaan, a word which in the Authorized Version is translated ‘grove,’ after an error of the Vulgate, but which in the Revised Version is rightly left untranslated. [Judges 3:7; 6:25, 2 Kings 23:6.] The word Ashera is in such passages the designation of the tree which stood to represent the goddess.” (Allan Menzies, History of Religion, 172; see alsoOld Testament Student Manual: Genesis–2 Samuel [religion 301, 2003], pp. 245–48, 255.)
The word jealousy used here means much the same as it did in Exodus 20:5. The Hebrew root kanah denotes “ardour, zeal, jealousy” (William Gesenius, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, p. 888). The implication is that the Lord possesses sensitive and deep feelings about false and degrading forms of worship (see Exodus 20:5b). The reason seems clear: the only power to save mankind from sin lies with God. Any false worship, therefore, cuts the sinner off from that power. Since God loves His children and wishes only their best eternal welfare, He is jealous (that is, feels very strongly) about any vain or false worship they perform.
The Lord was jealous of the sins of Judah because by these sins they, like Israel, were being turned from Him to a course that would deprive them of the salvation that only He could offer.
The king of Egypt referred to here as Shishak was most probably the “Libyan prince who founded Egypt’s XXIInd Dynasty as the Pharaoh Sheshong I. He reigned for 21 years c. 945–924 B.C. He harboured Jeroboam as a fugitive from Solomon, after Ahijah’s prophecy of Jeroboam’s future kingship [see 1 Kings 11:29–40]. Late in his reign, Shishak invaded Palestine in the fifth year of Rehoboam, 925 B.C. He subdued Judah, taking the treasures of Jerusalem as tribute [see 1 Kings 14:25–26; 2 Chronicles 12:2–12], and also asserted his dominion over Israel, as is evidenced by a broken stele of his from Megiddo. At the temple of Amun in Thebes, Shishak left a triumphal relief-scene, naming many Palestinian towns.” (J. D. Douglas, ed., The New Bible Dictionary, s.v. “Shishak”; see also 2 Chronicles 12:5–12for a detailed account of Shishak’s invasion.)
The phrase “slept with his fathers” is a euphemism that means that someone has died and his spirit has passed on to join the other departed spirits. The phrase is also used to indicate burial in the family tomb. (See Guthrie and Motyer, Commentary, p. 326).
Abijam was unrighteous, as his father had been. “But for David’s sake,” for the sake of the promises made about the house of David and to preserve the royal lineage through which the Messiah would come (see Isaiah 9:6–7; Luke 1:32; Acts 13:22–23), the Lord did not reject Abijam, who was David’s great-grandson, but allowed the throne to pass to him and then to his son (see Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:1:217). The word lamp refers to the idea of a light or a candle that continues to burn rather than being put out. Symbolically, then, Abijam’s line, or light, was allowed to continue rather than being extinguished. (Concerning Christ as the Son of David, see Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, pp. 188–95).
For an account of Abijam’s reign, see 2 Chronicles 13(where he is called Abijah). Although he was not a righteous man, neither was he completely unrighteous, for he called Jeroboam and his army to repentance (see 2 Chronicles 13:4–12), and his army prevailed over Jeroboam’s “because they relied upon the Lord” (v. 18).
See Joseph Smith Translation, 1 Kings 15:5, for a clarified translation of this verse. The statements throughout the Bible that credit David with being perfect, except for the one episode with Bath-sheba, are correct in that David was no idolator, nor did idolatry prosper while David was king. Idolatry and its accompanying vices were the greatest sin of Israel and the one least excused by the Lord. Although David succumbed to personal temptation and brought spiritual tragedy upon himself, he was faithful to the Lord in the sense that he did not tolerate idolatry in Israel.
Since Abijam’s mother was Maachah and Asa was a son of Abijam, it is highly likely that the word mother as used here was intended to be grandmother. She was still queen because she was still alive during Asa’s reign.
Asa came to the throne of Judah after his father’s death. He had seen the tragic consequences of sin and had also seen his father start a reform from these sinful practices. Asa launched an all-out campaign to complete the job his father had begun. He had idolatrous altars and images torn down. He also began to eliminate the male and female prostitutes who attended the pagan temples, groves, altars, and shrines. The reforms soon brought peace among the people, which made them more happy and content. He realized that the pagan peoples might again try to impose their false religious practices on his people, so he also used this interval of peace to build up his territorial defenses (see 2 Chronicles 14:7).
Adam Clarke explained: “As the word signifies a high place, what is here termed Ramah was probably a hill, (commanding a defile through which lay the principal road to Jerusalem,) which Baasha fortified in order to prevent all intercourse with the kingdom of Judah, lest his subjects should cleave to the house of David. Ramah was about two leagues [six miles] northward of Jerusalem.” (Commentary, 2:446–47.)
The alliance with Ben-hadad, king of Syria, displeased the Lord (see 2 Chronicles 16:1–9). Asa trusted and used an enemy—Ben-hadad—instead of a friend—the Lord—who had already both shown Asa and told him that he needed no other friends (see 2 Chronicles 15:2–4).
First Kings 15:23 says that Asa “was diseased in his feet” during “his old age.” 2 Chronicles 16:12says the disease began in the thirty-ninth year of Asa’s reign and became “exceeding great.” Asa relied solely upon physicians rather than turning to the Lord for help. He seems to have moved further from the Lord as he grew older (see 2 Chronicles 16:10). He died in the forty-first year of his reign, and the people “made a very great burning [of sacrifices] for him” (2 Chronicles 16:13–14).
The antecedent of him in verse 28 is Nadab. Baasha slew Nadab, not Asa.
Concerning the Lord’s message to Baasha, “I … made thee prince over my people Israel” (1 Kings 16:2), Clarke commented: “That is, in the course of my providence, I suffered thee to become king; for it is impossible that God should make a rebel, a traitor, and a murderer, king over his people, or over any people. God is ever represented in Scripture as doing those things which, in the course of his providence, he permits to be done.” (Commentary, 2:448.)
Jehu prophesied that Baasha’s posterity would be totally cut off—a consequence considered by Hebrews to be one of the greatest evils that could come upon a person. Zimri fulfilled this prophecy (see 1 Kings 16:11–13), but even though Zimri “did as had been prophesied and wiped out the house of Baasha, it is not to be supposed that he was ordained of the Lord to do so. Prophets can prophesy what men will bring upon themselves without necessitating the Lord’s predestining and controlling them to make it so.” (Rasmussen, Introduction to the Old Testament, 2:5.)
In slaying the friends and kinsfolk of Baasha, Zimri “endeavoured to exterminate his race, and blot out his memory; and the Jews say, when such a matter is determined, they not only destroy the house of the person himself, but the five neighbouring houses, that the memory of such a person may perish from the earth” (Clarke, Commentary, 2:449).
Rasmussen wrote of Omri: “Non-Biblical sources tell more about his eleven years of reign than does the Bible. In addition to his procuring Samaria and building it into a well-fortified capital city for northern Israel, the stone inscription of Mesha, King of Moab, admits that he [Omri] conquered Moab and exacted tribute all his days. And later inscriptions, such as the annals of Shalmaneser III, designated Israel as the ‘land of the house of Omri,’ and its kings were called in that text ‘sons of Omri’ even after his dynasty had been long replaced by another ruling family. Ben Hadad of Syria said his father took certain cities from Omri and forced him to allow free trade in Samaria. Omri made an alliance with Ethbaal, King of Tyre (Phoenicia), and took the Phoenician princess Jezebel for his son Ahab to marry. That alliance had deep and serious results in the religion and politics of Israel for forty-five years, and also in Judah some fifty years later.” (Introduction to the Old Testament, 2:5–6.)
Josephus wrote that the city built on this hill was called “by the Greeks Samaria; but he [Omri] himself called it Semareon, from Semer, who sold him the mountain whereon he built it” (Antiquities of the Jews, bk. 8, chap. 12, par. 5). Today the ruins of the city are called both Samaria and Sebastia, a name given to the city by Herod. The city, located six miles northwest of Shechem, remained the capital of the ten tribes until they were carried away captive. It was rebuilt into a city of great magnificence by Herod but was destroyed by the Romans in the First Jewish Revolt about A.D. 68 or 69.
Ahab, son of Omri, was even more evil than his father, who had “[done] worse than all that were before him” (1 Kings 16:25). The scripture states that Ahab “did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him” (1 Kings 16:30). Ahab married Jezebel, daughter of King Ethbaal of Phoenicia, who practiced idolatry of a most depraved kind. Ahab built a house of Baal in the capital city of Samaria and placed an altar to the Phoenician sun god inside it (see 1 Kings 16:32). He then made a grove in which the people could indulge themselves in immoral practices around a symbol dedicated to the fertility goddess Ashtaroth. Four hundred priests, who ate at Jezebel’s table at state expense, assisted her in the extravagant and unholy religion she had brought into Israel.
Clarke summed up this marriage, as well as Jezebel’s life, in these words:
“This was the head and chief of his offending; he took to wife, not only a heathen, but one whose hostility to the true religion was well known, and carried to the utmost extent. 1. She was the idolatrous daughter of an idolatrous king; 2. She practised it openly; 3. She not only countenanced it in others, but protected it, and gave its partisans honours and rewards; 4. She used every means to persecute the true religion; 5. She was hideously cruel, and put to death the prophets and priests of God; 6. And all this she did with the most zealous perseverance and relentless cruelty.
“Notwithstanding Ahab had built a temple, and made an altar for Baal, and set up the worship of Asherah, the Sidonian Venus, … yet so well known was the hostility of Jezebel to all good, that his marrying her was esteemed the highest pitch of vice, and an act the most provoking to God, and destructive to the prosperity of the kingdom.” (Commentary, 2:450–51.)
The prophecy by Joshua in Joshua 6:26concerning Jericho referred not just to building houses there but to restoring the city as a fortification (see Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 2:1:73).
Clarke outlined three opinions about the correct interpretation of Joshua’s prophecy:
It is thought that when he [Hiel] laid the foundation of the city, his eldest son, the hope of his family, died by the hand and judgment of God, and that all his children died in succession; so that when the doors were ready to be hung, his youngest and last child died, and thus, instead of securing himself a name, his whole family became extinct.
These expressions signify only great delay in the building; that he who should undertake it should spend nearly his whole life in it; all the time in which he was capable of procreating children; in a word, that if a man laid the foundation when his first-born came into the world, his youngest and last son should be born before the walls should be in readiness to admit the gates to be set up in them; and that the expression is of the proverbial kind, intimating greatly protracted labour, occasioned by multitudinous hinderances and delays.
That he who rebuilt this city should, in laying the foundation, slay or sacrifice his first-born, in order to consecrate it, and secure the assistance of the objects of his idolatrous worship; and should slay his youngest at the completion of the work, as a gratitude-offering for the assistance received. This latter opinion seems to be countenanced by the Chaldee, which represents Hiel as slaying his first-born Abiram, and his youngest son Segub.
“… None of these versions [Chaldee, Vulgate, Septuagint, Syriac, or Arabic], the Chaldee excepted, intimates that the children were either slain or died; which circumstance seems to strengthen the opinion, that the passage is to be understood of delays and hinderances.” (Commentary, 2:451.)
As you read the story of the tragedy that befell the house of Israel following the death of Solomon, did you feel sorrow for those who suffered and died during this period of time? What went wrong? How could they have averted the troubles that befell them? Your answers may give a pattern to follow in living your own life without such troubles. Give some real thought to the questions of how you can control disobedience and rebellion in your life. What results do you expect? Is it true of families as it is of nations that elimination of wickedness and selfishness will also produce harmony and unity? Why do you feel as you do? On a separate sheet of paper write your answers to these questions.
The Lord admonished the Israelites to maintain proper relationships, especially within their families and religious groups. He said, “Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren” (2 Chronicles 11:4). He also told them that as long as they followed His advice they would prosper; but if they forsook Him, He would forsake them (see 2 Chronicles 15:2). The Israelites disregarded His admonition, and soon disputations, violence, and hatred broke out. The scriptures, in describing this situation, record: “And in those times there was no peace to him that went out, nor to him that came in, but great vexations were upon all the inhabitants of the countries” (2 Chronicles 15:5). Thus, the kings of Judah and Israel failed to give their subjects the legal basis of peace. The spirit of contention is of the devil (see 3 Nephi 11:29). Do you have any need for improvement in this area? How would more harmonious relationships with your parents, brothers or sisters, and other people in your life affect your happiness and theirs? Write your answers on paper.
President David O. McKay said of unity: “In branches and wards, there is no virtue more conducive to progress and spirituality than the presence of this principle [unity]. When jealousy, backbiting, evil-speaking supplant confidence, self-subjection, unity, and harmony, the progress of the organization is stifled.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1939, p. 102.)
If you hope to fulfill your potential as a child of God, you must learn to work with others toward an established goal. You need to give help and accept help. This principle is true in society, in the Church, and, especially, in the home. President McKay said: “I can imagine few if any things more objectionable in the home than the absence of unity and harmony. On the other hand, I know that a home in which unity, mutual helpfulness, and love abide is just a bit of heaven on earth. I surmise that nearly all of you can testify to the sweetness of life in homes in which these virtues predominate. Most gratefully and humbly, I cherish the remembrance that never once as a lad in the home of my youth did I see one instance of discord between father and mother, and that goodwill and mutual understanding have been the uniting bond that has held together a fortunate group of brothers and sisters. Unity, harmony, goodwill are virtues to be fostered and cherished in every home.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1939, p. 102.)
The Apostle James wrote: “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. … Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” (James 1:8; 4:8.) These statements teach the necessity of avoiding hypocrisy and of always being true to the principles by which we claim to live.
Most of the kings of Israel and Judah were double-minded in the scriptural sense recorded by James. This double-mindedness created instability in their own lives as well as in the lives of all Israel. Elder Bruce R. McConkie tersely but fully described a double-minded man in these words: “A fickle, wavering man, as contrasted with one who is constant and firm, who always sustains the cause of righteousness. A member of the Church who tries both to forsake and to follow the world and who does not serve the Lord with an eye single to his glory.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:248.)
Elder Alvin R. Dyer said: “Many centuries ago Jesus made clear the fact that ‘man cannot serve two masters’; he will either love one and despise the other or hate the one and love the other. (see Matt. 6:24.) The Apostle James emphasized the importance of constantly choosing right over wrong. For those who attempt an allegiance to both, there will come instability. One psychologist calls such an individual a neurotic freak.” (The Nobility of Teaching, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year, 20 Jan. 1970, p. 3.)
To be double-minded in the classical, scriptural sense is to be astride the high, sharp fence that separates allegiance to the kingdom of God from allegiance to the world. On one side of the fence are Jehovah and Zion; on the other side are idols and Babylon.
Review the lives of the kings you have read about in this chapter of the Old Testament. Were any of them completely on the Lord’s side of the fence—not even peeking enviously through a knothole? Or did they try to maintain a position on both sides—an absolute impossibility?
What made the case of these kings even worse was that accepting the throne of either Israel or Judah meant accepting a position of agency or trust. The earthly king should always have been the embodiment of the Heavenly King, the only true king in Israel. The earthly king should have accepted the responsibility of leading the people to obey the Heavenly King and of punishing all who disobeyed Him. But apostasy set in; kings were no longer chosen by revelation and anointed by prophets. Therefore, it is not surprising that the rulers of both kingdoms so often led their people in a way directly opposed to the ways of God. Consider the following record.
Rehoboam (Judah)Forsook the law of the Lord
Jeroboam (Israel)Set up idols and false priesthood
Nadab (Israel)Followed Jeroboam’s pattern
Abijam (Judah)“Walked in all the sins of his father”
Baasha (Israel)Followed the pattern of Jeroboam
Jehoshaphat (Judah)Did not take down high places, but was otherwise right
Elah (Israel)Was a drunkard—”made Israel to sin”
Zimri (Israel)Was a murderer, idolater (reigned seven days)
Omri (Israel)Was a worse idolater than all before him
Ahab (Israel)Was even worse than Omri; married Jezebel
What was the one cause of downfall? Was it not double-mindedness that led to disobedience? Did not Israel trust more in the world and work harder to obtain its rewards than they trusted in the Lord and worked to obtain His rewards?