Lesson 53: THE DIVISION OF THE KINGDOM
Updated: Oct 4, 2020
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INTRODUCTION. God's eternal plan from the beginning was to save mankind from their sins. As God's plan unfolds in the scriptures, He chose one righteous man, Abraham, and promised him that he would be the father of a great nation. He promised to give this nation a place to dwell, the land of Canaan. And He promised that through Abraham's seed all families of the earth should be blessed (Gen. 12:2-3, 7).
THE EXODUS AND CONQUEST OF CANAAN. When Moses led the children of Israel, a multitude of people who were Abraham's descendants, out of the land of Egypt, the nation promise was fulfilled. When Joshua took the Israelites into the land of Canaan and conquered it, the land promise was fulfilled. Throughout the remainder of the Old Testament period, God prepared the world to receive his Son. The spiritual promise was then fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son and Savior.
THE JUDGES. After the death of Joshua there was no national leader in Israel. The tribes were loosely joined to one another through their common ancestor, Abraham, and their symbol of worship, the ark of the covenant. Their rulers were judges who were merely tribal leaders–leaders of their own and perhaps surrounding tribes.
THE UNITED KINGDOM. Eventually the people wanted a national leader and demanded a king. God directed Samuel, the prophet and last judge, to anoint Saul from the tribe of Benjamin as the first king. When Saul disobeyed God by not destroying the Amalekites, God rejected him as king and chose David from the tribe of Judah as the next king. David was a warrior and expanded and extended the borders of his kingdom by conquering the nations surrounding Israel. Gradually under his leadership the kingdom was strengthened and united. Through the prophet Nathan, God promised
David He would establish his kingdom and throne forever (II Sam. 7). The prophecy had its immediate fulfillment in David's son Solomon who reigned after him. But the prophecy was ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ who was a descendant of David through his earthly parents Joseph and Mary.
The last king of the United Kingdom was Solomon who reigned during a period of peace and great prosperity. During his reign the kingdom reached its zenith and gradually evolved from an agricultural society into an industrial empire. However, when Solomon was old and his many wives turned his heart away from God to idols, God rent the kingdom from him. Ten tribes in the north became a separate kingdom known as the northern kingdom or Israel. Nevertheless, God preserved for the house of David the two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin which continued as the southern kingdom or Judah.
THE DIVIDED KINGDOM (931/930 B. C.). When Solomon's son Rehoboam became king, the people demanded that he lighten their burdens and lower their taxes.
Rehoboam first asked the advice of the older men who had served Solomon. They advised him to do as the people asked, serve them, and they would support him. Rehoboam then asked the advice of the younger men who had grown up with him. They advised him to rule harshly, not with kindness, and to increase the burdens of the people. Unfortunately Rehoboam followed the foolish advice of the younger men.
The ten tribes in the north then revolted and rallied around Jeroboam, choosing him as their king. Thus the kingdom was divided and remained divided for 200 years until the northern kingdom, Israel, was carried away into captivity by the Assyrians. The southern kingdom, Judah, continued for another 130 years until it, too, was carried into captivity by the Babylonians.
When Rehoboam gathered the people loyal to him to fight against the newly formed northern kingdom, God sent a prophet, Shemaiah, to him. The prophet told Rehoboam and the people of Judah and Benjamin that the division of the kingdom was from God. The people then returned to their homes and civil war between the northern and southern kingdoms was avoided.