Why did Israel divide into the Northern Kingdom and the Southern Kingdom?

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The evidence of the divided kingdom seems to go back as far as Jacob when he was the head over a divided house. Jacob was the husband of two wives, Leah and Rachel, and there was plenty of tension between these ladies and their children (Genesis 37). Tension in Israel continued as Benjamin single-handedly went to war with the other tribes of Israel (Judges 20). Saul, a Benjamite, becomes the first king of Israel and this seems to bring some unity among the tribes. However, when David, a descendant of Judah, becomes king, the tribe of Benjamin rebells again (2 Samuel 2-3) but king David ultimately unites the 12 tribes of Israel (2 Samuel 5).

Solomon becomes king and Israel enjoys peace because God promised to bless Solomon and his kingdom as long as he followed the leading of God and obeyed His commands (1 Kings 9:1-9). However, Solomon did not stay true to God and he did not remain obedient to the commands of the Lord. In the beginning of the book of 1 Kings, Solomon is characterized as being a man who seeks God for wisdom so that he may rule his kingdom well (1 Kings 3). Later, Solomon builds the temple (1 Kings 7), and by the time the author pens the words of chapter 11, Solomon is described as a man who “loved many foreign women” (1 Kings 11:1).

Moses spoke of Israel’s future kings and gave a decree of what should and should not be done by them (Deuteronomy 17:16-17); it would seem that Moses spoke these words with Solomon in mind. Solomon was a double-minded man with an addiction to foreign women which ultimately led him away from God and into pagan worship. Although there were many variables at play in the chaos Israel’s history; it was Solomon’s divided heart that lead to the division of the kingdom.

Bibliography

III, Tremper Longman. An Introduction to the Old Testament: Second Edition. Zondervan Academic, 2009.
Waltke, B. K. (2011). An old testament theology: An exegetical, canonical, and thematic approach. Zondervan Academic.

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