Lesson 60, Geography Study Concerning the Scriptures, The Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom
Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, sought to establish his headquarters in Shechem, the spot where Abraham had first worshipped Jehovah on the soil of the Promised Land and where the nation of Israel had officially ratified its covenantal relationship with Jehovah.
Yet because Shechem was situated in a vale between Mt. Ebal and Mt Gerizim and was vulnerable to north-south attack it proved to be an unfortunate choice as a capital city.
The capital city was moved to Tirzah early in Jeroboam’s reign.
About 35 years after Jeroboam’s death, King Omri purchased a high, isolated, and relatively impregnable hill that he converted into the third and final capital city of the northern tribes: Samaria.
A LITTLE LEAVEN LEAVENETH THE WHOLE LUMP
Jeroboam also implemented at the cities of Dan and Bethel a religion of the “golden calves”, emulating Aaron’s religion at Mt.Sinai, so that pilgrims would not have to journey southward to Jerusalem to participate in high festival occasions.
(Convenience religion, for the purpose of control)
I Kings 12:25-33, Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. 26And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. 30And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
The two calves (bulls of gold) were to replace the cherubim of the mercy seat.
One to the north in Dan and one to the south in Bethel.
Jeroboam may not have intended to establish actual idolatry, he thus set the general tenor of spiritual declension.
There is a theory that the golden bulls were not really images of Jehovah, but formed the visible pedestal upon which the invisible god of Israel stood.
So goes compromise, it is an uncontrollable action.
The lot is cast into the lap but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord!
1 Kings 12:30
this thing became a sin…
for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan;
31And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. 32And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. 33So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.
1 Kings 12:32
And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, &c.] The feast of tabernacles, which was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month; this was done chiefly for the sake of an alteration; because the fruits of the land were not so soon ripe nor so soon gathered, in the northern parts of the land, as nearer Jerusalem, he judged this month the fittest for the feast of ingathering the fruits; and he might hope to get more people to come to his feast, when all were gathered in:
and he offered upon the altar (so he did in Bethel), sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: this he did by his priests, or rather he himself did it, see (1 Kings 13:4) , this shows that Jeroboam made these calves for worship, and did sacrifice to them, at least as representations of God. Some commentators say that he did not sacrifice to the calves, but to God, because of them, that his kingdom, which they were a sign of, might be continued; and there being but one calf in a place, he could not be said to sacrifice to them both, but to God, because of both; or else he thinks this must be done after the people had turned aside to them, and not when Jeroboam made them. The clause in the parenthesis, "so he did in Bethel", intimates that he did the same in Bethel as in Dan, of which what is said before is spoken; that is, that he made an house of high places in Bethel also, made priests out of all the people, such as were not of the tribe of Levi, appointed the feast of the fifteenth day of the eighth month to be observed there also, and he himself offered on the altar there: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made: to officiate there.
Scripture records that Jeroboam’s apostasy was followed by 15 of his successors, and never once was the Northern Kingdom visited with revival.
Two others kings, Ahab and Ahaziah outrightly worshipped Baal, both related to Jezebel.
Meanwhile In the Southern Kingdom - Judah and Jerusalem Besieged
When the Solomonic monarchy was fractured and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah were created, both kingdoms were left weak and militarily vulnerable.
So wrote Isaiah: Isaiah 1:7,8, Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.
In fact, between the disintegration of the monarchy (930B.C.) and the fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian forces (587 B.C.) the humiliating history of Judah and Jerusalem largely revolved around a series of foreign assaults and plunderings, coming from virtually every quarter.
Almost immediately after the schism of Solomon’s realm, Pharaoh Shishak invaded with some 1200 chariots and 60,000 cavalry.
1 Kings 14:25, And it came to pass in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak (shee-shak) king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem: 26And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house; he even took away all: and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.
1 Chron 12:2, With twelve hundred chariots, and threescore thousand horsemen: and the people were without number that came with him out of Egypt; the Lubims, the Sukkiims, and the Ethiopians.
Shishak’s own account inscribed on the wall of the temple of Amon in Karnak says that the Egyptians advanced by way of Gaza to Ekron, where the troops divided.
One contingent marched past Gezer and Upper Beth-horon; the other force proceeded up the Sorek valley, past Beth-shemesh, and converged with the first army at Gibeon, a northern suburb of Jerusalem. (1)
Though the fortified cities of Judah had been ravaged, Jerusalem itself was spared an Egyptian onslaught because Rehoboam carried out (to Gibeon) the treasures of the Temple, including the golden shields crafted during the reign of Solomon.
Shishak now marched into the Northern Kingdom also attacking Jeroboam’s capital cities of Shechem and Tirzah, before crossing the Jordan to seize the town of Penuel, where Jeroboam may have sought temporary refuge.
Shishak did this despite having earlier sheltered Jeroboam after he fled from Solomon’s wrath
I Kings 11:40, 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.)
Shishak then captured the cities of Beth-shan , Shunem, and Taanach, before laying siege to Megiddo, the strategic fortress guarding the pass in the Carmel range through which ran the international trade route.
When finally seized, Meggido was converted into an Egyptian military base.
A fragment of an inscribed stone commemorating Shishak’s victory has been discovered among the archaeological remains of Megiddo.