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How We Taught This Lesson in the Past: Lesson 27: The Influence of Wicked and Righteous Leaders

By: Ardis E. Parshall - July 04, 2010

The current lesson manual draws from the stories of Rehoboam, Jeroboam, and Jehoshaphat. Most lesson manuals of the past, even those that take a chronological approach to Old Testament history, focus so heavily on Genesis and the early history of Israel that the year ends by the time the chronology reaches David or Solomon. These 1945 lessons for older children tell the stories of Rehoboam and Jeroboam – but as yet I have not found a single manual that includes Jehoshaphat.

THE KINGDOM DIVIDED

Rehoboam, the Foolish
“My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke”

To the Teacher:

“By the street of By-and-By stands the house of never.” – Cervantes.

“It is much easier to be critical than correct.” – Disraeli.

Pre-study Questions:

1. Who was Jeroboam? Why did he flee to Egypt?
2. Where did Rehoboam meet the leaders of the tribes?
3. What question did he need three days to answer?
4. What advice was given by: his father’s advisors? the young men?
5. What answer did he give?
6. How many tribes supported Jeroboam?
7. What did Adoram try to do? What was the result?
8. How long was it before the tribes were again united?

The Story: I Kings 11-12.

The break-up of Solomon’s kingdom began during his reign. Many people were glad of an excuse to worship idols. And now, when they saw Solomon worshiping the gods brought to Jerusalem by his foreign wives, they thought it right for them to worship idols also. The majority of the Israelites still worshiped Jehovah, and were angry to see their king doing wickedly.

The Israelites were proud of the beautiful temple that Solomon had built, and they were pleased that other kings paid honor to their ruler. But there were many things they did not like. Solomon’s idolatry and his heavy taxes were most objectionable.

The Lord, too, was very displeased that Solomon had followed his wives into idolatry. One day He visited Solomon and said, “You have not kept my covenant, nor my statutes; therefore, I will take the kingdom away and give it to your servant. It shall not be divided in your day, for thy father, David’s sake, but I will take it from your son, who shall rule after you. Not all the kingdom shall be taken away; for the tribe of Judah shall remain loyal to your son, but ten tribes shall be taken away.”

The servant of whom the Lord spoke was named Jeroboam. He was a man holding a position of great power to Israel. When Solomon knew that he should rule over part of the kingdom, Jeroboam was forced to flee to Egypt to save his life.

When Solomon died, Rehoboam, his son was made ruler over all Israel. Solomon was buried in Jerusalem after a magnificent funeral.

After the funeral Rehoboam marched with his friends to Sechem, where he had arranged to meet the leaders from all the tribes, to hear their complaints and decide upon the policy he would follow while he ruled over Israel.

Sechem was a famous place in Israel’s history. Jacob had lived there for many years with his families. It was a fine place for representatives from the tribes to come and meet their king.

Messengers had brought Jeroboam back from Egypt when they knew Solomon was dead. Many people had turned to him for leadership, for they knew he was opposed to the taxes King Solomon had placed on them. Jeroboam found a strong party to support him, so he was ready to speak in defense of the people.

Jeroboam said to the new king: “Your father, King Solomon, made a heavy yoke for us to bear. If you will lighten that yoke, and reduce the burdens upon us, we will serve you and support you as king.”

Jeroboam referred, of course, to the taxes and labor Solomon had forced the people to give to him.

Rehoboam had been brought up in a court of luxury and idleness. It was a strange experience to have anyone suggest how he should act. He had no respect for the rights or wishes of other people. This new ruler was not the wise, thoughtful man that his father had been when Solomon started his reign. Rehoboam did not know what it meant to sacrifice, to pay heavy taxes, and to labor for long hours carrying huge timbers and heavy stones in the blistering sunshine. He asked the people to wait three days for an answer, for he did not know what to say.

During those three days Jeroboam held meetings with the leaders of the tribes. They were determined not to support Rehoboam unless he should make their burdens lighter.

Rehoboam turned to his father’s wise old advisers. They knew the conditions in Israel and how the people should be governed. They understood very well how deeply the people felt about the taxes. When Rehoboam asked what answer he should give to the leaders of the tribes, those men said: “If you desire to be king, you must be prepared to serve your people. Speak words of comfort to them now, and they will serve you forever.”

Rehoboam was angry at such advice. He did not intend to serve anyone. He was a haughty prince, and did not think it right for him to speak kindly to people that he looked upon as servants. Displeased, he sent the old men away.

The young king now called for a group of idle young princes, who had been his companions in Jerusalem. Like the king, they had never known the need to help anyone else, and they thought the common people lived to provide for their pleasures. He asked them what to do. They urged him to refuse the requests of the people.

The three days passed. The people now gathered to hear Rehoboam’s decision. Jeroboam had been busy among the people urging them to rebel if the answer was not favorable.

When Rehoboam stood on the steps before the altar in Sechem, he saw many angry, scowling faces. Many of the people were ready to rebel regardless of the king’s answer. Then the king began to speak.

“My father made your yoke heavy,” he cried in a taunting, haughty tone, “and I will add to your yoke. My father beat you with stripes, but I will beat you with scorpions. You think my father’s burdens were heavy; they shall be greatly increased. You are but servants and must do what I, your king, command.”

As he spoke the people may have recalled the warning Samuel gave when they first asked for a king. As King Rehoboam finished, an angry shout was raised. The maddened crowd saw they could expect no help from this stern, self-willed ruler.

Rehoboam had hoped, and possibly thought, they would respect him more if he appeared to be firm. The people, however, cried out to him, “Then we will not have you for our ruler. We will return to our homes and fight before we will become your servants.”

The king was now alarmed, for the people were leaving him. He sent Adoram, his father’s hated officer, after them thinking he could compel them to again serve the king. In their anger, the Israelites turned on that hated task master and stoned him to death.

The men of the tribe of Judah remained at Sechem. They supported Rehoboam, and he was crowned their king. When the ceremony was completed, the king climbed in a chariot and drove away to Jerusalem as fast as he could go.

At Jerusalem, Rehoboam tried to collect an army to send from the tribe of Judah against the other tribes of Israel. A prophet of the Lord visited the king and told him that he must not do that, for they would never again be ruled by one king as they had been under his father and grandfather.

The kingdom that David had worked so hard to unite was now split more seriously than it had ever been, and all because a foolish king did not understand that the rights of other people must be respected and honored.

The kingdom was divided into two parts. The southern kingdom, ruled over by Rehoboam, was known as the Kingdom of Judah. It included the territory occupied by the tribe of Judah and part of the tribe of Benjamin. The northern kingdom included the other ten tribes and half of the tribe of Benjamin; it was called the Kingdom of Israel, and was ruled by Jeroboam.

Those two kingdoms existed as jealous, angry rivals until they were taken into captivity by stronger nations.

Thought Questions:

1. Did the warning of Samuel regarding the dangers ane evils under a king come true? Explain.
2. What did the Lord tell Solomon should happen to the kingdom?
3. What burdens did Israel object to?
4. Did they not want to build the Temple?
5. How had Solomon shown greater respect for the rights of others than his son did?
6. Was the request of the people a fair one?
7. Why did Rehoboam refuse the advice of the old wise men?
8. What are some things that people do who have no respect for other people’s rights?
9. Have you ever been guilty of taking things that did not belong to you?
10. When we see that mistakes of this kind have been made, what should we do about it?
11. Do we have the right to expect others to remain orderly? not to destroy property>?
12. Do our parents have the right to expect us to help with chores and jobs around the home?
13. Who else has the right to expect our help and loyalty?
14. Do these people respect others’ rights: gangsters? boys who steal fruit? girls who tell stories about others that are not true? You may add to this list.

Jeroboam, the Deceitful.
“To your tents, oh Israel’

To the Teacher:

“Experience is like the stern lights of a ship which illumine only the track it has passed.” – Coleridge. (But those lights may show the danger to others – even though they never pass that way again.)

Pre-study Questions:

1. What did Ahijah tell Jeroboam? How did this illustrate what he meant?
2. When did Jeroboam say, “To your tents, oh Israel?” Why?
3. What was placed at Dan and Bethel?
4. Why did Jeroboam’s wife visit the prophet?
5. What information did the prophet give to her?
6. In Jeroboam’s later years how was he referred to?
7. What happened to the children of Jeroboam?

The Story: I Kings 12-14.

Jeroboam had been a powerful officer in Solomon’s court. He was greatly disturbed because Solomon treated his people so badly. For some time Jeroboam had tried to decide how he could best help his people, but so far no plan had come to him.

One day he was walking into the country district, outside the walls of Jerusalem. He met the Prophet Ahijah coming toward him from Shiloh. He had known the prophet for a long time, but he had never seen the old gentleman so upset as he seemed on that particular day.

Ahijah reached out and took Jeroboam’s cloak right off his back; then to Jeroboam’s surprise the prophet tore that beautiful cloak into twelve pieces.

Handing ten pieces of the cloak back to Jeroboam, the prophet said, “Take ten pieces, for the Lord of Israel has said to me, ‘Behold I will give ten tribes to Jeroboam; and Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, shall receive one tribe in honor and in memory of David.’ You, Jeroboam, shall rule over Israel, but Rehoboam shall rule in Judah.” When Ahijah hurried away Jeroboam went on into the country, wondering how those things could be.

Ahijah went directly to Jerusalem, and hurried to the palace where he asked to see the king. He was presently admitted, and he told Solomon the same thing that he had told Jeroboam. When Solomon knew Jeroboam would be made king over Israel, he planned to kill him. Friends warned jeroboam of his danger, so he fled to Egypt where he lived until after Solomon died.

The news of Solomon’s death was brought to Jeroboam by swift messengers, who invited him to return and lead Israel against the new king, Rehoboam.

A meeting was called; it was to be held at Sechem, and all the leaders in the Tribe were urged to be present, and make their complaints to the new king. The people gathered in great numbers, for important matters were to be decided upon.

Jeroboam pleaded with Rehoboam to treat the people kindly and make their burdens lighter. He promised that Israel would serve Rehoboam faithfully if the king would lighten their burdens somewhat. When the king scornfully refused that very reasonable offer, Jeroboam cried in a loud voice, “To your tents, oh Israel. Why should we remain loyal to this grandson of David. He has no right to rule over us. As our fathers marched from the tyrants of Egypt, so shall we march from the kingdom of this wicked man.”

Ten tribes followed Jeroboam. The Elders met, and crowned Jeroboam to be king over the northern kingdom, which they called Israel. Sechem was chosen as the capital.

Jeroboam knew it was Jehovah who had rejected Rehoboam, and not just the people. He knew, too, the Lord expected his leaders to serve and worship Him. But Jeroboam immediately started to do things that displeased the Lord.

He did not put his full faith in the Lord. He believed he would get along very well as long as the people turned to him for help and leadership. He thought the reason Jehovah had turned against Rehoboam was because of the prayers of the people; so he argued that if he could get the people praying to idols, the Lord would not hear them, and he could do as he wished.

While living in the court he had seen the idols worshiped by Solomon’s heathen wives. He had also become well acquainted with the Egyptian forms of worship while living as an exile in that country. Now he decided to change the religion of his people so they would not want to go to the Temple at Jerusalem. If they should visit the Temple they might want to unite with Judah once more.

Instructions were sent out for the leaders to collect a large supply of gold and send it to Sechem, as he intended to provide them with something to worship. He would save them the long trip to Jerusalem.

When the gold came in, he melted it and formed two golden calves. He presented the calves to the people ad said, “These are the gods that brought Israel out of Egypt. I will put one at Bethel, in the South, and one at Dan, in the very north of the kingdom. You will not have to travel so far now to worship, for your gods will be close to you, in your own land.”

At Dan and Bethel he erected beautiful houses for the golden calf-gods. Then he selected priests, to replace the Levites who would he nothing to do with his gods. Feast days were named on the same days as those used by the people of Judah, so his people would not go back to Jerusalem.

All this was done by Jeroboam to keep the two people from uniting again. He need not have done such wicked things for the Lord had said they should never be united again. But you see, Jeroboam did not trust the lord. He thought his plan was best.

A Prophet of the Lord visited the altar at Bethel. he told the people of their wickedness and pleaded with them to pray to Jehovah for forgiveness. The priests laughed at the Prophet; and when they made fun of him, the Prophet said God would send a sign of His anger: the altar should crumble and ashes would pour out upon the ground.

That prophecy angered the people. Jeroboam tried to take hold of the Prophet, but his hand became stiff and the flesh dried up so he could not move it. The altar fell with a roar, and clouds of ashes swept over the ground.

Jeroboam now pleaded with the Prophet to pray that Jehovah would make his hand well and not harm the people. He was really afraid. The Prophet did pray to the Lord to spare Israel. The Lord, in his mercy, made the king’s hand well once more.

The king’s repentance was not sincere, as is shown by his actions when his infant son became ill. The child was named Abijah. He was a lovely boy, too good to be raised in such a wicked house as Jeroboam’s was.

The child became dreadfully sick. The parents did everything possible to cure him of his illness. Finally the king suggested that the queen should go to the prophet of the Lord and ask him if the child would ever get well again.

Jeroboam was afraid to go himself, for he knew he had done wrong in worshiping idols, and he was afraid the prophet would scold him.

The queen disguised herself. She dressed like a poor woman, in old and shabby clothing so none of the people would recognize her. Then she took ten loaves of bread, some honey and cakes, as a present to the prophet. In her disguise, the queen visited the prophet’s home.

The prophet was old and blind; but when the queen came plodding along the dusty road toward his humble home he knew who she was.

The queen came to his door, and the prophet called, “Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend that you are another woman? I have bad news for you!”

The king and queen had both forgotten that our Heavenly Father could tell the prophet of their wicked plan to deceive him. The queen entered the house and stood with bowed head, while she listened to the prophet’s message.

“Arise now, and hurry to your home. When your feet enter the city again, the child shall die. All Israel shall mourn for him, for this is the only one of your children that shall come to the grave. He was a good child and the Lord has taken care of him. Your husband, the king, has done great wrong in making idols for the people to worship. Instead of blessings, he shall now be given great sorrows. The kingdom shall be taken from Jeroboam’s house, and his sons and daughters, except this one, shall die horrible deaths.”

The queen left her gifts and hurried away with her dreadful message. She knew everything the prophet had said was true. When she reached the city gate, the child died. They buried the child, and all Israel mourned for him.

For twenty-five years Jeroboam ruled Israel. At the end of that time he had led Israel into such wickedness that he was always referred to as “Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin.”

The son of Jeroboam tried to take the throne after his father’s death, but he was killed by another wicked man. The other children were then killed by enemies and their bodies were thrown into the fields where they were eaten by birds and wild beasts.

There are some things that are sacred. Jeroboam did not seem to recognize that; he defiled everything he touched. His lack of reverence for sacred things brought disaster to all his house.

Thought Questions:

1. What reason did Solomon have for trying to kill Jeroboam?
2. Have other people heard that same cry; “To your tents, oh Israel”? When?
3. What did Jeroboam do that displeased the Lord?
4. What mistaken beliefs did jeroboam have/
5. What does reverence mean? Can you be reverent without prayer? Can you pray without being reverent?
6. How did Jeroboam show lack of reverence for Jehovah? for the prophet? for the Ten Commandments? for the priests and Levites?
7. How was Jeroboam warned of the Lord’s displeasure?
8. Can you play tricks on man and get away with it? On the Lord?
9. What dreadful message did the queen receive?
10. For what things or persons should we show reverence?
11. Are there any of these that you did not know of? Can you improve in reverence?
12. Do you respect people that do not show proper reverence to sacred things and places?
13. What resolution can you decide upon for the next month?
14. Should the mourning have been for the child, who had died, or for the king who was still alive? Why?
15. Can you name some examples of irreverence that you have observed?



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