1 KINGS – THE END OF SOLOMON'S REIGN; JEROBOAM, AND REHOBOAM, THE FIRST KINGS OF A DIVIDED ISRAEL
An appropriate beginning for this chapter in predestination is a brief quotation from our No. 20 in this series:
"Forces were being forged into alliances, Opposition was building even while Solomon was growing in power. The very instruments Solomon used to bring power and fame to himself and Israel were the same instruments that drove a wedge between the twelve tribes; particularly the levies and the forced servitude employed in the building of the houses of Solomon, including the temple."
And so it was. Solomon grew older and wiser. He also grew an appetite for the idol gods of his many wives, 1 Kings 11.8. How could this be? Had Solomon kicked over the traces? Reader, one only has to examine within to learn the secret of personal iniquity and lust. Perhaps it is far more widespread in ourselves than most may care to admit. Even so, Solomon's path would, without fail, lead to a permanent rupture among the twelve tribes of Israel. Lest any have a sudden outbreak of Arminian reasoning in this regard, remember the words of Jeremiah: "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps (Jeremiah 10.23)." Since that was written nearly 400 years after Solomon, we hardly think the prophet would except the regal king in this sweeping statement. God was fully in control! The way of this man, Solomon, was not in himself either.
Before examining the account of Rehoboam, Solomon's successor and son, and Jeroboam, king of the ten northern tribes, notice must be given to several whom God raised up as adversaries unto beloved Solomon. Should the reason be asked why, let us say, it establishes in greater detail the complete control God wielded over the lives of all those who were contemporaries with Solomon, especially those involved in his decline. "And the Lord stirred up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite: he was of the king's seed in Edom (1 Kings 11.14)." Hearken, you who despise predestination! Was our great Jehovah merely a spectator in the rise of this adversary, Hadad? Certainly not! No amount of rage or malice will obviate the truth; God not only had a will in the matter, He stirred up Hadad. Hadad was a fugitive from the sword of Joab during the reign of David, Solomon's father. As an Edomite youth he, among others, fled to Egypt to avoid the vengeance of David's decree which would certainly bring an end to theirs lives. In this strange episode, Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave them sanctuary, a house, and appointed Hadad victuals and land. Why would this Egyptian king show favor to a youthful castaway from the families of Esau? We can only say, "Even so Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight." More amazing than all this, Pharaoh extended an even more lavish favor to Hadad the Edomite. "And Hadad found great favour in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him to wife the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen (1 Kings 11. 19f)." What more could Hadad have desired? From appearance he was set for life. Luxury, fame, prominence and security. This was about the best this earth could offer. However, intelligence came to the ears of Hadad which aroused smoldering passions. "And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country (1 Kings 11.21)." This is no isolated incident in the affairs of humanity. It is all too common. Here was a man with everything, yet he felt compelled to throw it all away to nurse a burning grudge. But wait! Remember; God stirred up this adversary. After all the wrangling and disputing we still come to this: God directed this affair to fulfill His eternal purpose. Those children of the Heavenly King who find solace in God's sovereignty ascribe the incident to absolute predestination. Arminians, however, take refuge in sophistry and double talk, which is but a wall daubed with untempered mortar.
Pharaoh observed this animosity fuming forth from Hadad as extremely strange. "Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country?" Pharaoh reasoned, but not even compelling arguments from this great monarch could dissuade Hadad. "And he answered, Nothing: howbeit let me go in any wise (1 Kings 11.22)." Hear his response! Nothing! A voice had appealed to Hadad from the very throne of Egypt but it was powerless against the will of the Sovereign of the universe. God had stirred up an adversary, Hadad, and no enticements nor allurements could bend this resolute rod, for God raised him up for this specific purpose, to chastise Solomon. We are not informed just what activities Hadad engaged in towards Solomon beyond it being called "mischief' (1 Kings 11.25).
It is interesting to note that Hadad asks of Pharaoh to "let me go in any wise." Pharaoh was as helpless to retain Hadad as a previous Pharaoh was to keep the Hebrew children from crossing the Red Sea to freedom. Both the Hebrews and Hadad had been stirred by the declaration of God's will, and go they must; each for their respective purpose. The Hebrews returned to Canaan freed from bondage and Hadad returned to mischief.
Since God stirred up Hadad for this particular purpose who dares say Hadad could have acted any different than what he did? And why not? Did not the great Jehovah have a plan worthy of Himself in all this? If He did not then we poor creatures are in desperate straits indeed, for free will reigns rather than the eternal councils. Hadad would be a mischief maker as sure as God was on His throne. And the historical facts are that Hadad did exactly what God stirred him up to do. Was God's holiness violated by Hadad fulfilling the eternal purpose? We can only pity the soul that thinks so.
"And God stirred him up another adversary, Rezon the son of Eliadah, which fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah (1 Kings 11.23)." It appears that Rezon broke away from Hadadezer his king and established himself as captain over a following of men of like passions. He ultimately became king over Syria and devoted much energy pestering Solomon so long as he lived. As Hadad the Edomite troubled Judah from the South it seems Rezon did the same from the North, thus inflicting considerable grief on Solomon. What shall be said then of these troublers? This much can be said: they were both stirred by none other than God for purposes that seemed good in His sight. Can it be thought that the Scripture, "The way of the transgressor is hard," would afford Solomon an exemption due to his station in Israel? God did indeed raise up and stir these two troublers in Israel and we are persuaded it was for wise purposes determined from eternity past.
There are many Hadads and Rezons affecting the lives of the elect family. Some seem to do so justly and some unjustly but all do so within the framework of God's absolute predestination.
Third, but certainly the more conspicuous among the inveterate foes of Solomon, was Jeroboam. Hadad and Rezon may have been particularly pesky as adversaries of Solomon but Jeroboam was raised up by God and proclaimed by the prophet Ahijah to be successor to ten of the tribes of Israel. An unending division ruptured the families descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with Jeroboam being the first of a long line of wicked kings to rule over them. Thus, Jeroboam figures prominently in the plan God ordained in eternity past for the course of the twelve tribes.
At this juncture we pause to ask a simple question of those who believe God only controls good things but not those things which are considered (by human logic) evil or sinful: according to your line of thinking, how much control did God, the creator of the heavens and earth, possess at the time of Solomon, Hadad, Rezon, Jeroboam and the host of other Israelites who had gone whoring after the gods and idols of the nations about them? To repeat, how much control did God have? If our God only rules and determines events thought sanitary by us, and has no direct involvement in the unsanitary deeds of His creation, is He not, by such blasphemous reasoning, practically in retirement from the affairs of this world? To disassociate God from all the events of time and eternity that are not pure and holy would be the equivalent of saying He has either lost control or never had it in the first place.
Some would dodge the above conclusion by saying God has a secret will and a revealed will, or that God permits sin while not ordaining its execution. That is, at best, ludicrous, and at worst, infidelity. For our part, we rejoice in this truth, from everlasting, God did determine all events of all time and they are all as sure as His throne. If it might be asked if we understand it all, we would, without hesitation, say no, and yet at the same time take great comfort in believing it to be so.
The rise and conduct of Jeroboam is an extremely interesting subject. However, only that portion of his life which relates to Solomon will be considered. Jeroboam's name seems to mean, the people contend, or he pleads the cause of the people. Whatever, he certainly was a dominant figure of the period. Jeroboam was the son of a servant of Solomon, Nebat, an Ephraimite. His mother's name was Zeruah, a widow. Some ancient manuscripts say she was a porne, or harlot.
Jeroboam's antagonism toward Solomon follows a familiar path, one frequently seen in the Scriptures. "And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph (1 Kings 11.28)." Was it a quirk of genetic formation passed on from his parents that produced this mighty valour? Or could it rather be the conferred character from God? Moreover, there were frequently conspicuous men of valour in those days. Why then single out this Jeroboam? Was it chance, luck, a simple fortuitous happening? Solomon was a wise man; a skilled man; far above even the wisest of other men. He excelled in the study of human nature. Could it have been a miscalculation by Solomon which led him to station Jeroboam in such a prominent position? No! The divine record indicates the will of God was the determinant factor in Jeroboam's rise to power and influence among the people.
There are many champions and brave leaders of various causes. Some succeed; some fail. What or who makes them to be different? In the case of Jeroboam there can be no question. God sent His prophet Ahijah with tidings from heaven. God determined the course of Jeroboam.
Jeroboam proudly clothed himself in a new garment, apparently befitting his new position. "And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, 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 (1 Kings 11.30,3lff)." This episode leads us to ponder a fundamental position derived from Scriptures. Since God sent His prophet to Jeroboam with specific instructions, then it must have been the will of God for matters to come to pass exactly as described. Thus, His will being as eternal as Himself, the incident, together with all corresponding events, was predestinated. Yes, blessed predestination! Who shall dare assume God only wished or hoped matters would fall out as prescribed by His prophet Ahijah? Listen once again. This is the voice of eternal purpose: "For thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel." That expression will satisfy all but the most hardened Arminians. God intended matters to be as Ahijah spoke them, and so they were.
From 1 Kings 11.33 to 39, we find the catalog of reasons for assigning Jeroboam to prominence and the rending of ten tribes from Solomon and his seed. Those sins, however do not change the truth of eternal purpose. All God's works are eternally known by Him and what He does is done forever, meaning, He had determined beforehand, even from eternity, what He would do regarding Solomon's fall from integrity. May His name be praised that our times, like Solomon's, are in His hands.
"Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam, And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon (1 Kings 11.40)." What dreadful conduct! Solomon, in many respects a splendid type or figure of Christ, clutched in his breast a murderous passion toward the very man whom God raised up to lift his hand against him. "Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity (Psalm 39.5)." "Solomon sought!" Note well, Solomon contemplated the murder of one of his brethren. If the ignited emotion of this corrupted king of Israel had given free expression, Jeroboam would have been a corpse within hours of the desired deed.
Solomon, with all his wisdom, might, influence, and determination yet could not sustain the destruction of Jeroboam, for, as our text from the previous article stated, "This thing is from me" was the word of Jehovah relative to the impending division of the twelve tribes. Surely the potter had molded the clay; each for its respective purpose. Solomon would fail in his nefarious plot. Jeroboam would flee to Egypt for security.
Solomon died after serving Israel forty years (1 Kings 11.42). Now, after 120 years under three kings, Saul, David, and Solomon, Israel was really, externally at least, no better served, and considerably worse, for their tenure as a monarchy. What a striking lesson for the saints of God today; "Our kingdom is not of this world," for surely, if it is, we are in worse straits than Israel was then.
Solomon was dead. Jeroboam, anointed of God to rule the ten Northern tribes was in Egypt, and Rehoboam, Solomon's arrogant son, reigned in his stead. "There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand (Ecclesiastes 5.13,14)." Perhaps Solomon had prophesied against himself unwittingly.
THE REIGNS OF JEROBOAM AND REHOBOAM.
"But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes (1 Kings 11.35)." Jehovah had spoken thus by the mouth of Ahijah. This is a visible and most certain example of God having declared the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46.10). There were no contingencies, no variables. God had spoken. And so it came to pass. How beautiful to the little sheep who rejoice in sovereign grace. Amidst all the turmoil and confusion in the camps of Israel; despite the determination of Solomon to slay Jeroboam; Jeroboam fleeing to Egypt for fear; idolatry rampant; even revolt among the tribes, God was bringing to pass His eternal purposes to preserve Himself a remnant (Romans 11.5) and maintain the royal seed line of David (Romans 1.2,3) until His only begotten Son would sit on the throne according to the everlasting covenant (Acts 2.29-3 1).
The reader will be well served here to take notice that Solomon is not accorded the prominence in the New Testament his ancestors received. Especially noteworthy is the omission of Solomon from the catalog of the faithful in Hebrews, chapter eleven. Rahab, a harlot, is listed. Samson, a suicide, is mentioned. Jephthae, who evoked an awful vow upon his daughter, is found, but not Solomon. David, Samuel, and the prophets close out the list. Surely, there is a lesson for us in these circumstances.
"And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king (1 Kings 12.1)." This is but one more vivid illustration of the folly of man. The accepted opinion in Israel was to install Rehoboam king over all Israel, but God had before determined, and moreover, vocalized through Ahijah the prophet, that ten tribes would follow Jeroboam, not Rehoboam. "For this thing is from me" once again comes to mind, focusing our attention on the determinate counsel of God. What would come of the message from Jehovah to Jeroboam if the people had succeeded in bringing Rehoboam to the throne? To the blessed eye of the living children it is clear as the sea of glass, all events must be absolutely controlled by God, or chaos must ensue. Had all Israel gained their objective to bring Solomon's son permanently to the throne, the message of God through Ahijah would be little more than a suggestion.
Jeroboam was recalled from Egypt to address Rehoboam, much as his name indicated, "the people contend." Their petition to the new king was simple. It made common sense. Young kings are, however, often void of common sense and Rehoboam was no exception. "Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee (1 Kings 12.4)." On the response of young king Rehoboam hangs the heart of our whole thesis in this series of articles. If, as Arminians contend, man is free to act as he will, the new king might just as well respond affirmatively as negatively and nothing outside of himself could violate his volition.
We know what Jehovah had exclaimed. "This thing is from me!" God had already determined that Jeroboam would rule over ten tribes, thus we are compelled to believe that, despite all the hoopla for free will, nothing would take place to force matters to come to pass contrary to God's determination, also called absolute predestination.
Let work mongers the world over engage to uncover a scrap of evidence to fortify their absurd notion of free will, especially as it may relate to this episode. Rehoboam was not going to respond favorably to Israel's pleas. As his father Solomon had written earlier, "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord (Proverbs 16.33)." God had declared His purpose for Israel. The outcome was as sure as the rising of the sun. "For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? And his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back (Isaiah 14.27)?"
Rehoboam could sooner tear God from the throne than he could conjure up sentiments favorable to the pleas of Jeroboam and Israel that he loosen the oppressive yoke his father Solomon had put upon them.
From the beginning we have attempted to show that God would, for reasons worthy of Himself, divide the twelve tribes, leaving the Northern tribes to apostasy and preserving the seed through which the Christ would be born from the tribe of Judah. Following is the record of how the division took place:
Jeroboam had been determined by Jehovah to lead off the ten tribes of the North (1 Kings 11.29-32). Upon the death of Solomon, Rehoboam his son reigned in his stead (1 Kings 11.43). At the first, all Israel came to Shechem to make Rehoboam king (1 Kings 12.1). At the same time they summoned Jeroboam from Egypt to petition Rehoboam, appealing to the young king for a reversal from the rigors Solomon had enacted. Their appeal was straightforward. "Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee (1 Kings 12.4)." Rehoboam's response to Israel's petition exhibits from the commencement he had substantial character flaws. "And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed (1 Kings 12.5)." The time (Ecclesiastes 3.8) for confrontation was at hand. Rehoboam first sought out the counsel of the old men that stood with Solomon his father. Accordingly, they recommended he speak good to Israel, assuring they would be his servants for ever (1 Kings 12.6,7). "But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him (1 Kings 12.8ff)."
"Woe to thee, O land, when thy king is a child, and thy princes eat in the morning (Ecclesiastes 10.16)!" Surely a weighty woe was about to fall upon Israel. The young men who grew up with Rehoboam afforded him no good counsel yet their words were adopted by the young king. "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words of knowledge (Proverbs 19.27)."
Rehoboam had heard counsel representing opposite points of view. On the one hand, the old men who stood with Solomon encouraged Rehoboam to deal kindly with the legitimate appeals of the Israelites. Opposing views were urged by his fellows, no doubt as unstable as himself. Could the matter then fall out one way as well as the other? Wisdom and wise counsel emanated from the peace party; folly and brazenness best describes the counsel of the contemporaries of Rehoboam. How would the issue evolve? "There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord (Proverbs 21.30)." God alone would decide the outcome! So has it ever been and ever shall be.
"The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21.1)." This newly established king was certainly no exception to the text. Even though the request of Israel was noble; even though the counsel of the young men was wicked; all things were to be determined by the will of God alone. Those determinations were forged in eternity and we are today blessed to know them as the absolute predestination of all things. How happy those who find comfort and consolation therein!
Israel was soon to be divided forever. Ten tribes to the north; two tribes to the south. The trigger which would touch off the rupture was a seemingly simple decision to be made by the new king, Rehoboam. A simple decision, but would he follow the counsel of the older and wiser advisers? Or, would he rather stoop to his carnal instincts, primed to the full with egotism and pride, and acquiesce to the urgings of his rowdy associates, obviously vile as himself? A question, perhaps of far more importance is, was this his decision to make? To the law and the testimony: "The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord (Proverbs 16.1)." Those blessed to trust God and His word believe just what the text informs us. God prepared Rehoboam's heart for this occasion and gave his tongue the answer to Israel's petition. Both were from the Lord! May we be humbly submissive to this comforting truth. So the die was cast. "And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions (1 Kings 12.11)." Reader, be not hasty in assessing the matter. Yes, Rehoboam acted in a most cruel and pompous manner. His conduct fully impeaches his credentials as a fit king. Nevertheless, we see behind the impulsive behavior of Rehoboam the authority of a higher king; a King Whose authority is never repulsed. "Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord, that he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat (1 Kings 12.15)." "For the cause was from the Lord!" Yes, our God, Who ruleth in heaven and earth, is the first cause of all causes. And, to repeat once again from our previous text, "For this thing is from me."
As was the case many times in centuries past, God rejected some on one hand and preserved some on the other hand. The scope of attention from the division of Israel forward would be on Judah, from which would come the Messiah. Once again, the pivotal point determining the course of events evolved from actions practically everyone would consider contrary to good conduct. Rehoboam followed the path of carnal reasoning and thus the unity of Israel was destroyed. We believe, however, that the evidence is unmistakable; God had purposed matters to come to pass as they did. So, what shall we say? "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out (Romans 11.33)!" God had judged according to His wisdom and knowledge. He issued His eternal directives. Israel was divided. Can we fully understand? "For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counsellor (Romans 11.34)?"
Though we give leave to the subject for now, sobered by the thought that both Jeroboam and Rehoboam were instruments in the hand of God to bring to pass His eternal purposes, we call to mind finally, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (Romans 11.36)."
Volume 14, No.5