Two Kingdoms

All the Jews gathered at Shechem where Rehabeam's coronation was to take place. Having heard of Solomon's death, Jeroboam had returned from Egypt and now became the spokesman of the people. During Solomon's reign the people had been heavily taxed. The burden of paying for the lavish court and the improvements instituted by Solomon weighed heavily on the people. Under Solomon's firm rule too, the people had become more subservient to the central government in Jerusalem. Before they submitted themselves to Rehabeam's succession, the people wished to know his intentions concerning these important matters.

Rehabeam promised to give them an answer in three days' time. At first he consulted the older statesmen, and they advised him to follow a moderate policy. That was not to his liking. The younger men to whom he then turned for counsel favored a firm hand. When the three days elapsed, Rehabeam confronted the people with the statement: "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 scorpion-thorns."

The people were shocked. In no uncertain terms they rejected him and his kingdom. "To your tents, O Israel! What share have we in David's kingdom?" they said, and dispersed without recognizing Rehabeam as their king.

Rehabeam returned to Jerusalem in haste at the first sign of open revolt. His reign was now stretched only to the cities of Judah. When he attempted to collect taxes from the rest of Israel, his tax collector Adoram was stoned to death. The people sent for Jeroboam and made him king over the ten northern tribes of Israel. Only Benjamin and Judah remained loyal to the dynasty of David. Rehabeam mobilized a huge army, intending to fight it out with his opponent. However, he was dissuaded from starting a civil war by the prophet Shemaiah, who informed him that G‑d had willed this division in the Jewish state.