Part I: The Great Schism
Biblical Period 7
Lesson # 17

Eternal God and Father,
You call Your Covenant people to be one family united in faith, obedience and holiness.  How it must disappoint You, Father, when the children of Your family reject Your gentle and loving guidance and insist on going their own way, and like our first parents fall into the sin of self-sufficiency in deciding for themselves what is good and what is evil.  Guide us in our study Lord, and help us to learn from the failures those who weakened the Old Covenant Church.  In the same regard, help us to be encouraged and strengthened by the faithful remnant of Your Covenant people who held fast to their sacraments and covenant obligations, never straying from the path You had provided for their hope of salvation. We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, amen.


King David's advice to his son Solomon: "Be strong and show yourself a man.  Observe the injunctions of Yahweh your God, following his ways and keeping his laws, his commandments, his ordinances and his decrees, as stand written in the Law of Moses, so that you may be successful in everything you do and undertake, and that Yahweh may fulfill the promise which he made me: 'If your sons are careful how they behave, and walk loyally before me with all their heart and soul, you will never want for a man on the throne of Israel.'" 1 Kings 2:1-4

"Solomon's reign in Jerusalem over all Israel lasted forty years.  When Solomon fell asleep with his ancestors, he was buried in the City of David his father; his son Rehoboam succeeded him." 1 Kings 11:42-43

"What am I to do with you, Ephraim [Northern Kingdom]?  What am I to do with you, Judah [Southern Kingdom]?  For your love is like morning mist, like the dew that quickly disappears. This is why I have hacked them to pieces by means of the prophets, why I have killed them with words from my mouth, way my sentence will blaze forth like the dawn'for faithful love [hesed*]pleases me, not sacrifices; knowledge of God, not burnt offerings."  Hosea 6:4-6

*The Hebrew word hesed expresses faithful covenant love; the love between God and man and between a man and a woman in the covenant of marriage.

Readings for Biblical period  #7: The Divided Kingdom

Solomon's Son Rehoboam Alienates the Tribes and Splits the Kingdom 1 Kings 12:1-16
The Northern Kingdom - Israel 1 Kings 12:12-20
The Southern Kingdom - Judah 1 Kings 14:21-31
Elijah, Prophet of God 2 Kings 1:1-2:13
Elisha, Successor of Elijah 2 Kings 2:14-18-13:21
The Adventure of the Prophet Jonah Jonah 1:1-4:11
Isaiah Prophesies Judgment and Destruction for Israel and Judah Isaiah 1:1-5:30
Hosea's Covenant Lawsuit Against Israel Hosea 1-2:25; 9:1-11:6
Isaiah Prophesizes the Coming of the Messiah Isaiah 6:1-17; 7:1-9:7; 42:1-66:24

Had King Solomon followed the advice of his father David his kingdom could have been blessed forever.  Solomon had begun by laying the foundation of his kingdom with God, but he did not continue to make God the center and focus of his life; he became corrupted by power and wealth.  As a result the godly treasures he and David had gained for Israel would be lost.  After Solomon's death his son Rehoboam succeeded him.

Please read 1 Kings 12:1-16: Solomon's Son Rehoboam Alienates the Tribes and Splits the Kingdom

The succession of Rehoboam to the throne of Israel was confirmed at the Assembly of Israel at Shechem in c. 930 BC. This site had figured in the history of Israel since the Covenant renewal ceremony instituted by Joshua at the beginning of the Conquest of Canaan [see Joshua 24:1].  Shechem, about 35 miles north of Jerusalem, was probably chosen as the site of the investiture of the king for this very reason. 

Question: Who is it, when hearing of this change in government, returned to Israel to make trouble for the son as he had made trouble or the father? Also see 1 Kings 11:26-40.

Answer: Jeroboam, an ambitious prince of the tribe of Ephraim, a descendant of Joseph.

Please read 1 Kings 12:12-20: The Northern Kingdom - Israel

 Question: Led by Jeroboam, prince of Ephraim, what petition do the 12 tribes take to the new king?

Answer: It was the old question of relief from the burden of taxes! Jeroboam probably saw this problem as an excellent opportunity to claim the prophecy of the prophet in 1 Kings 11: 34-39 when he was promised kingship over Israel.

Question: How does Rehoboam respond to the request for tax relief?

Answer: He does not consult Yahweh; instead he seeks the advice of the elders of Israel, which he rejects, and the poor advice of his friends.  Instead of relieving the tax burden on the people he decides to increase the burden in an attempt to portray himself as a strong leader. It is interesting that often weak leaders mistakenly believe that unreasonable and inflexible behavior constitutes strength and leadership.  Saul was also guilty of such weakness in leading the community of Israel.

Question: What happens as a result of Rehoboam's inflexibility and harshness?

Answer: The United Kingdom of Israel splits into 2 kingdoms: Israel in the North, consisting of 10 of the 12 tribes and Judah in the South, consisting of only of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin.  Jerusalem will remain the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah with Rehoboam as her king but the 10 tribes elect Jeroboam, prince of Ephraim as king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Shechem will become the first capital of the Northern Kingdom but later the capital will be moved to the city of Samaria.  The kingdoms were divided at the northern end of the Dead Sea.  See a map of the Divided Kingdom.

This episode marks a division of the nation of Israel that lasted 3,877 years!  The united nation Israel ceased to exist and would not be reestablished as a unified people until 1947 when the United Nations voted the creation of a new Jewish nation of Israel and a new Arab-Palestinian nation of Jordan from the lands the British held as a protectorate after the fall of the old Ottoman Empire [see the chart Time Land in the Holy Land]. 

This split in the 12 tribes of Israel did not begin with the reign of Solomon's rash son.  The movement toward disunity began as early as the days of the Judges when tribal jealousies, especially between the tribe of Ephraim, the most powerful tribe of the north, and Judah, the most powerful southern tribe, surfaced.  Before the days of Saul and David the religious and political center of Israel was located for the most part in the territory of Ephraim. When David captured Jerusalem c. 1000 BC he moved the religious center of Israel to Jerusalem, on the border between Benjamin and Judah.

Question: Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam were concerned with what was good for themselves, not what was good for their people or what Yahweh wanted for His people. Rehoboam was harsh and did not listen to what the people requested, but what were Jeroboam's failings and how does he lead the Northern Kingdom into sin?  See 12:26-33.

Answer: This is more than a political schism, it is also a schism in Church of the Covenant people. 

Jeroboam is warned against this fall into apostasy by Yahweh prophet in 1 Kings 13:1-6, but   Jeroboam continues in his apostasy and establishes a false shrine at Bethel and inaugurates the shrine during the Pilgrim Feast of Tabernacles [the same feast when the Temple in Jerusalem had been dedicated].  Yahweh's prophet prophesizes the rule of good king Josiah of the House of David who will bring judgment on Israel's false priesthood and then withers the kings arm as a "sign". However,  "Jeroboam did not give up his wicked ways after this incident, but went on appointing priests for the high places from the common people.  He consecrated as priests of the high places any who wished to be.  Such conduct made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth." 1 Kings 13:33, 34

Jeroboam's substitute religion removed Israel from God's holy covenant by creating another cult, worshiping according to "their own understanding" and influenced by the popular trends of the day.  Over time little remained of the true faith as articulated in the Covenant at Sinai.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Jeroboam

Strengths Weaknesses
An effective leader and organizer Established idol worship in Israel
First king of the 10 Northern Tribes Appointed priests from outside the tribe of Levi
A charismatic leader with popular support Depended entirely on his own abilities.  God was not part of his equation for leadership.

Jeroboam's dynasty was short lived'it ended with his son. 9 different dynasties will rule Israel while only the House of David will rule Judah!


(Saul, David & Solomon ruled c. 1047-930 BC.  After the civil war that divided Israel from Judah there were 9 Ruling Families)

1.   Jeroboam I 930-910 B 22 1 Kings 11:26 – 14:20
2.   Nadab 910-909 B 2 1 Kings 15:25-28
3.   Baasha 909-886 B 24 1 Kings 15:27-16:7
4.   Elah 886-885 B 2 1 Kings 16:6-14
5.   Zimri 885 B 7 days 1 Kings 16:9-20
6. Tibni 885-880 B 7 1 Kings 16:21-22
7. Omri 885-874 B 12 1 Kings 16:23-28
8.   Ahab 874-853 B 22 1 Kings 16:28 – 22:40
9.   Ahaziah 853-852 B 2 1 Kings 22:40, 52-54;
2 Kings 1:1-18
10.  Jehoram 852-841 B 12 2 Kings 3:1 – 9:25
11.  Jehu 841-814 B 28 2 Kings 9:1 – 10:36
12.  Jehoahaz 814-798 B 17 2 Kings 13:1-9
13.  Jehoash 798-783 B 16 2 Kings 13:10 – 14:16
14.  Jeroboam II 783-743 B 41 2 Kings 14:23-29
15.  Zechariah 743 B 6 months 2 Kings 14:29 – 15:12
16.  Shallum 753 B 1 month 2 Kings 15:10-14
17.  Menahem 753-738 B 10 2 Kings 15:14-22
18.  Pekahiah 738-737 B 2 2 Kings 15:23-26
19.  Pekah 737-732 B 20 2 Kings 15:27-31
20.  Hoshea 732-724 B 9 2 Kings 15:30; 17:1-6

KINGS OF JUDAH930 – 587/6 B.C.

(one ruling family: the House of David)

1.   Rehoboam 930-913 B 17 1 Kings 11:42 – 14:31
2.   Abijah 913-911 B 3 1 Kings 14:31 – 15:8
3.   Asa 911-870 G 41 1 Kings 15:8-24
4.   Jehoshaphat 870-848 G 25 1 Kings 22:41-55
5.   Jehoram 848-841 B 8 2 Kings 8:16-24
8. Ahaziah 841 B 1 2 Kings 8:24 – 9:29
7.   Athaliah 841-835 B 7 2 Kings 11:1-20
9.   Jehoash 835-796 G 40 2 Kings 11:1 – 12:21
10. Amaziah 796-781 G 29 2 Kings 14:1-22
11. Uzziah(debilitating disease = son, Jotham ruled for his father) 781-740 G 52 2 Kings 15:1-7
12.  Jotham 740-736 G 16 2 Kings 15:32-38
13.  Ahaz 736-716 B 16 2 Kings 15:38 – 16:20
14.  Hezekiah 716-687 G 29 2 Kings 16:20;
18:1- 20:21
15.  Manasseh 687-642 B 55 2 Kings 21:1-18
16.  Amon 642-640 B 2 2 Kings 21:19-26
17.  Josiah 640-609 G 31 2 Kings 22:1 – 23:30
18.  Johoahaz 609 B 3 months 2 Kings 23:30-34
19.  Jehoiakim 609-598 B 11 2 Kings 23:34 – 24:6
20.  Johoiachin 598-597 B 3 months 2 Kings 24:6-16
21.  Zedekiah 598-586 B 11 2 Kings 24:17 – 25:30

Michal Hunt 1991 – revised 2004

Question: Consulting the Charts of the Kings of Israel and Judah: How many good kings reigned in Israel?  How many good kings reigned in Judah?

Please read 1 Kings 14:21-31: The Southern Kingdom - Judah

Question: Rehoboam was at least consistent; a bad beginning is followed with a bad end. What were the sins of Solomon's son?

Answer: He allowed idol worship and in a move toward ecumenism and tolerance toward the Canaanite pagans, he permitted the practice of male pagan shrine prostitutes, an abomination to Yahweh.  The people of Judah were in spiritual and moral corruption.

Question: What judgment did Yahweh bring against Judah to bring the people back into covenant reconciliation with Him?  Remember God's judgment is always meant to be redemptive'the goal is always repentance and restoration of fellowship.

Answer: Just five years after Solomon died the Temple and the King's palace in Jerusalem were ransacked by the army of Shishak, Pharaoh of Egypt.  For more information on Shishak see 2 Chronicles 12:2-4

Archaeologists have evidence that supports this Biblical account.   A victory inscription found on the walls of the temple of Amun in Thebes lists numerous cities that Shishak plundered in both Judah and the Northern Kingdom during this time period.  2 Chronicles 12:5-8 indicates that fear of the invasion led to a temporary repentance and reformation in Judah. 

The continued moral decay accompanied by constant warfare contributed to instability in both the Northern and Southern kingdoms.  When there is a complete collapse of the religious and political authority among the people of Israel, Yahweh's holy prophets are called into action! Prophets are the Covenant Mediators. They are the voice of God to the people but they are also God's prosecuting attorneys in times of great apostasy.

Questions for group discussion:

Question: The Bible tells us that "there is nothing new under the sun" [Ecclesiastes 1:9].  Does this split in the Old Covenant Church that resulted in the rejection of liturgical practice and the ordinances of God as communicated by His priestly hierarchy to the leaders and the people have any similarity to trials faced by the New Covenant [universal] Catholic Church in the past and in the present day?  Please note that Jeroboam redefined the sacraments of the Old Covenant and reinvented liturgical worship for the Northern Kingdom, dismissing the ordained priesthood and discarding the liturgical practices and sacraments given to the Covenant people at Mt. Sinai.

Question: The Northern Kingdom of Israel fell into the sin of apostasy. What is apostasy and what is heresy? Please give examples of each.

Answer: The Catholic Dictionary defines these terms as: Apostasy ="The total rejection by a baptized person of the Christian faith he once professed." Heresy = "In the Roman Catholic Church, heresy has a very specific meaning. Anyone who, after receiving baptism, while remaining nominally a Christian, pertinaciously denies or doubts any of the truths that must be believed with divine and Catholic faith is considered a heretic."

CCC #2089 offers these definitions of loss of faith: "Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal or submission to the Roman Pontiff or communion with the members of the Church subject to him."

By these definitions a baptized Christian who would convert to Islam or Hinduism would be an apostate.  A baptized believer who denies or has serious doubt concerning the bodily resurrection of Christ, the Virgin birth of Jesus, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, or any other dogma taught by Mother Church as passed down by Christ to His Apostles and the Magisterium, is in heresy.  For more information on the sins of apostasy and heresy see CCC#s  817.

Resources and Recommended Reading:

  1. The Navarre Bible Commentaries: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings
  2. Anchor Bible Commentaries: 1-2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1 Chronicles
  3. "Is the TempleScroll the Sixth Book of the Torah?", Hartmut Stegemann, Understanding the Dead Sea Scrolls, edited by Hershel Shanks
  4. Bible History: Old Testament, Alfred Edersheim
  5. Dictionary of the Bible, John McKenzie, S.J.
  6. The Book of Isaiah, Edward J. Young, vol. I-III, [  William Eerdmans Publishing, 1997].
  7. Modern Catholic Dictionary, John A. Hardon, S.J., [Doubleday, 1966].

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2008 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.