The Revolt of the Ten Tribes
King Solomon had many wives, according to the custom of those days. Many of them were heathen women, whom the Lord had forbidden the children of Israel to marry. It came to pass when Solomon was old that his heathen wives turned away his heart from God and made him worship idols, and even build a temple to worship them in.
The Lord was angry with Solomon for disobeying His orders, and for going after heathen women and strange gods. Therefore, the Lord said to him: "Since you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I commanded you, I will surely rend the kingdom from you and give it to some one else. I will not do it while you live for David, your father's sake, but I will rend it out of the hand of your son. I will leave him two tribes only for his kingdom, but the other tribes I will take from him."
Enemies began to rise and give trouble to Solomon. There was a young man named Jeroboam, who was a mighty man of valor. He was industrious and strong, so much so, that Solomon had put him in charge of important work. One day as he was going out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah met him in a field, and they two were alone.
Ahijah caught the new garment that Jeroboam was wearing and tore it in twelve pieces. "Take ten pieces," said the prophet to the young man, "for the Lord will take the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes."
He then told Jeroboam that the Lord was doing this because Solomon had turned to strange gods, but that He would not divide the kingdom until after Solomon was dead. He also told him that the son of Solomon should still keep two tribes and reign in Jerusalem, the city of David.
When Solomon heard what the prophet had said, he tried to kill Jeroboam, but the young man arose and fled into Egypt and lived there until Solomon was dead.
Solomon was king over Israel for forty years, and when he died he was buried in Jerusalem. As soon as the king was dead the people sent word to Jereboam in Egypt and he hastened to return to his own land. He and all the people went to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, to make him king. They said to Rehoboam:
"Your father made our yoke heavy. If you will make the burdens lighter and not treat us so harshly nor take our possessions for your own use, we will serve you."
Rehoboam was not ready with his answer, so he replied: "Leave me for three days and then come again and I will tell you what I will do." And the people left him.
Rehoboam sent first to the old men, who had stood by his father, Solomon, and asked them: "How do you advise that I answer this people?"
"If you will serve this people, and speak good words to them, and promise to lighten their burdens, they will be your servants and subjects forever," replied the old men, who knew how heavily the people had been burdened.
But Rehoboam was a spoiled son, and did not like the advice of the old men. He sent for the young men that had grown up with him, and asked them: "What counsel do you give me to answer this people who want their burdens made lighter?"
The young men were not wise and they advised Rehoboam to answer the people harshly and to show them no mercy and not to lighten their burdens. The advice was pleasant enough to the foolish man.
On the third day the people returned for their answer. Rehoboam spoke to them roughly, saying: "My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions."
The people went away dissatisfied. They said among themselves: "What have we under Rehoboam but burdens and taxes and heavy work? Let us have our own kingdom and select our own king and make our own laws." And so ten tribes of Israel revolted from Rehoboam and made Jeroboam king over Israel, and went off by themselves, leaving Rehoboam in Jerusalem to reign over the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin. And thus was the kingdom divided as the prophet had foretold to Jeroboam that day in the field.
As soon as Rehoboam saw that the ten tribes had left him, he sent Adoram to them, saying they must return to him and be his subjects and still pay the taxes. But the people of the tribes stoned the messenger until he was dead, which so alarmed Rehoboam that he hastened to shut himself up in Jerusalem for fear of the people.
But Rehoboam was not going to let his kingdom leave him without a struggle. He assembled the house of Judah and the house of Benjamin, a great host of warriors to fight against the house of Israel and bring back the kingdom to himself.
As he was ready to depart, a prophet came to him and said: "This thing is of the Lord, and it is His will that the kingdom be divided, and your valiant men cannot change His purpose. Go not up to fight against your brethren of Israel, but let every man return to his own home." When Rehoboam heard these words he let his men depart to their homes and left Jeroboam to be king over the ten tribes of Israel as the Lord had said.