Author: Ron Graham

History of Israel

The Divided Kingdom
—And the great apostasy

Time ~ 6. Kingdom Divided
Span ~ 200 years
Books ~ 2Kings, 2Chronicles, Isaiah, Amos, Jonah, Hosea, Micah
Figures ~ Solomon, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah
Begins with ~ Rebellion of the ten tribes
Ascendant empire ~ Assyria

Over a thousand years has passed since the times of Israel began. We have been through the times of the Promises to Abraham, Bondage in Egypt, Wandering in the Wilderness, Conquest of Canaan, Kingdom of David, and now we have entered the time of the Kingdom Divided.

1 A Nation Split in Two

The nation of Israel became two separate kingdoms.

Israel had seen division before. After Solomon's death, however, the division became pronounced and longstanding.

Solomon's son Rehoboam took the throne in Jerusalem.But he lacked the skill to keep Israel united as previous kings had done, nor would he listen to advice.

So ten tribes rebelled against him, and a second kingdom was formed with Solomon's servant Jeroboam as king.

The books of Kings and Chronicles record the reigns of successive kings in both kingdoms. Many of these kings were wicked, but some were good and godly.

The break away kingdom of the ten tribes retained the name ISRAEL, whilst the smaller kingdom that remained around Jerusalem was known as JUDAH.

2 The Main Point

Behind this story is the now familiar principle that God punishes unrepented disobedience, and often used the wicked to punish the wicked. Solomon's sin is being punished by having the greater part of the kingdom torn away from his house by his own servant, who was by no means a righteous man himself. Another equally important principle is that sin and disobedience destroy unity and divide the people of God.

3 Bible Summary (1Kings 11-16)

4 The Great Apostasy

The fortunes and failures of the Israelites were always related to their obedience or disobedience to God. Often God allowed them to be oppressed because they rebelled against him. Not until they repented toward him would he hear their cries.

In the time of David's great Kingdom, we saw the promised land come at last into Israel's possession. Now we shall watch it lost. The Israelites will lose their land, prosperity, unity, and freedom. Sin does its damage again. At the end, the tribes are all banished from their land and taken into exile.

Sin had often expressed itself in disunity among the tribes. This division comes back with a vengeance after Solomon's death. His kingdom splits into two kingdoms. One kingdom consists of Judah and Benjamin --two tribes which had become virtually merged as one. This kingdom has Jerusalem as its capital, and Solomon's son Rehoboam as its king. The second kingdom consists of the ten surrounding tribes. It has Samaria to the north as its capital, and Solomon's rebel servant Jeroboam ensconced there as its king.

5 Kingdoms and Tribes

note The Biblical references to the kingdoms and tribes can be slightly confusing if you are not aware of certain distinctions as explained below.

The Kingdoms

Because Samaria is north of Jerusalem, Jeroboam's kingdom is often referred to as the "northern kingdom". The Bible calls the northern kingdom "Israel" and the southern kingdom "Judah". So from this time, the name "Judah" can refer either to the tribe of Judah, or to the two-tribe kingdom. Likewise, the name "Israel" can refer either to all twelve tribes or to the ten-tribe kingdom.

The Tribes

The "two tribes" of the southern kingdom and the "ten tribes" of the northern kingdom refer to territories. The names of the territories do not match the names of the twelve sons of Jacob the fathers of the twelve tribes. There are two reasons for this. First, the territories included two allotments to Joseph in the name of his sons Ephraim and Manasseh. Second, the tribe of Levi, the priestly tribe, was distributed throughout the territories of the other tribes. So when we speak of twelve tribes of Israel, we can speak simply of the twelve sons of Jacob who each fathered a tribe, or we can speak territorialy of the twelve land allotments. In the latter case the list of names will not include Joseph and Levi, but will include instead Ephraim and Manasseh.