The Fall of Jeroboam I and Rehoboam
“Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places and pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land” (14:22–24a).- 1 Kings 14:1–15:8
Jeroboam I, the first king of the northern kingdom of Israel, received a word from the Lord that God would build him a lasting kingdom if he followed God’s law (1 Kings 11:26–40). Soon after taking the throne, however, he led the nation into idolatry (12:25–33). Not even a prophetic word and a miraculous sign denouncing his illegal altars could dissuade the king from his sin (ch. 13).
Given that he had heard from God about establishing his kingdom, Jeroboam should have known that his disobedience would mean that the throne would be taken from his family. Perhaps that motivated his actions in today’s passage. When Jeroboam’s son Abijah “fell sick,” he sent his wife—in disguise—to the prophet Ahijah, the same man who told him that he would get a throne of his own (14:1–5; see 11:26–40). Apparently, he was hoping for another good word about the future of his son, yet he feared what the prophet would say if he knew that Jeroboam was the one asking.
Ahijah the prophet, though his eyesight was poor, saw right through Jeroboam’s ruse. After all, God sees everything and could reveal the truth to Ahijah. So, Ahijah prophesied the downfall of Jeroboam’s kingdom, which was confirmed by the death of Jeroboam’s son. Jeroboam’s line, however, would not end until after the king’s death, which is also recorded in today’s passage (14:6–21).
Today’s passage also has some final comments on Rehoboam, son of Solomon and the first ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah (12:1–24). Ultimately, Judah under Rehoboam was no more loyal to the Lord than Israel was under Jeroboam I. True, there was some faithfulness to God during Rehoboam’s reign, as we see in 2 Chronicles 11:5–12:16. Yet in the end, Judah sinned against the Lord “more than all that their fathers had done” (1 Kings 14:21–22; see 2 Chron. 12:14). The Judahites built worship sites for other gods and even employed male cult prostitutes—Judahites would have sexual relations with these men because they believed it would make the land fertile (1 Kings 14:23–24). Thus, God brought Egypt against Judah to discipline His people, and Judah was forced to buy off Pharaoh Shishak in order to save itself from destruction (vv. 25–28).
Abijam followed his father Rehoboam as king of Judah, and he continued in the sins of his predecessor. Yet God allowed Abijam and his son after him to reign because of His love for and promise to David (14:29–15:8). The kingdom continued only by God’s grace.
God’s grace is the only reason why His kingdom continues at all. His people are sinful and can make no claim on the Lord to sustain His church. Yet, God has graciously promised to do so. That does not make our actions insignificant, but it does mean that the perseverance of the church cannot be attributed to us but can be attributed only to the work of the Lord. Let us serve Him faithfully but never forget our dependence on His grace.
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 12:15–13:22