Useful Bible Studies > 1 Kings Commentary > chapter 12

Israel divides into two nations

1 Kings 12:16-17

When Israel’s people wanted David’s family to rule over them, they declared David to be their relative (2 Samuel 5:1). Now, however, Rehoboam, David’s grandson, had upset them greatly. They did not merely oppose Rehoboam; they turned against the whole of David’s family. They did not want any future kings from David’s family to rule over them. They emphasised this with a reference to Jesse, David’s father. Israel should have its own rulers, and its own government, they said.

The effect of this was to separate the tribe (family group) of Judah from the rest of the tribes. David’s family belonged to the tribe of Judah and they continued to rule over it for several centuries. The nation had separated previously in this way during the rule of Ish-Bosheth (2 Samuel 2:8-11). It happened again, briefly, when Sheba opposed David (2 Samuel chapter 20).

However, on this occasion the division was permanent. So from now on in the Books of 1 and 2 Kings, we must study the history of two nations. The southern nation, called ‘Judah’, ruled only over the regions that belonged to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Its kings always came from David’s family.

The northern nation, which we usually call simply ‘Israel’, ruled over the tribes in central and northern Israel. Its first kings were from Jeroboam’s family; after them from Omri’s family, and then from Jehu’s family. In addition, several kings from other families ruled, often for short periods of time. All the kings that ruled this nation were evil.

Next part: Israel's people kill Adoniram (1 Kings 12:18)


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