Rehoboam made plans to go to war to establish his authority over the entire nation, but through a prophet, God warned him not to do so. Amazingly enough, Rehoboam honored God’s word and allow the northern tribes to secede.
Jeroboam feared that allowing the northern tribes to go to Jerusalem to worship would eventually cause him to lose their loyalty.
After all, in those days, each nation had its own “god” and national loyalty and loyalty to the nation’s god were very closely tied. If YHWH were perceived to be God of those tribes ruled by Rehoboam, the people would not want to be separated from the worship of their God.
(1Ki 12:28-33 ESV) 28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one. 31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. 32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. 33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.
Why golden calves? This is likely for the same reason that the Israelites made a golden calf at the foot of Mt. Sinai — they were likely worshipping a god of the Egyptians, Apis. And there is evidence that that Canaanites sometimes pictured Baal as a calf or as riding on one.
On the other hand, it’s also been argued that the Ancient Near Eastern gods were often pictured as seated or riding on a bull, ox, or calf. Thus, the golden calves weren’t idols but substitutes for the ark of the covenant, the mercy seat, and the cherubim where God’s glory dwelled in the Holy of Holies. That is, the people were to worship God, as though he were riding upon the golden calves.
On the other hand, it’s very easy to see Jeroboam wanting to build an alliance with Egypt, to gain protection from Rehoboam, and so trying to move his people toward the Egyptian gods. Indeed, we soon see that Egypt takes advantage of the weakness resulting from the division of Israel, invades Jerusalem, and takes the golden treasures of the palace and Temple.
On why kings make terrible parents
David was apparently a terrible father — at least as to Absalom and some of his other sons. I suppose that’s the price of massive polygamy. The king just doesn’t have time for all the children he sires. How well the sons turn out depends very much on the mothers, and many of those mothers are in the harem for political reasons — or, as in the case of Abishag, because of their beauty.
Indeed, it’s likely that the concubines were selected for their looks — to demonstrate the king’s sexual prowess and to make him the envy of all men.
The result, of course, is that the women in the harem weren’t necessarily good mothers. They weren’t selected for their moral character, their devotion to God and Torah, or even their ability to cook and sew.
The inevitable result of building a family on vainglory is bad parenting and a long line of ill bred, spoiled, foolish kings.
The Romans came up with a better system. Julius Caesar searched out Octavius, adopted him, and made him successor — not willing to take chances on the inbred royalty gene pool or the parenting skills of his consorts.
But in the Ancient Near East, succession was by blood-line inheritance, and the assumption was that a wise king would sire a wise son — and it rarely worked that way.
Is there a lesson here for us? Well, yes. Whom you marry matters not only for how happy you’ll be in your marriage, but the kind of children you’ll raise. Good looks and good politics do not necessarily produce good children. And fathers too distracted to help raise their own children often find themselves embarrassed by the results of their foolishness.
It’s hard enough to raise good children when you enjoy great wealth and privilege. Children raised by the wealthy often turn out spoiled despite having great parents. Privilege creates its own set of challenges, because privilege often removes the motivation to learn patience or how to get along with others — when everyone is kowtowing to you because of who your daddy is.
It’s not impossible to parent in the midst of wealth and privilege, but it’s a tough challenge — and a challenge often not recognized by parents. After all, the parents often grew up poor and know how bad that is — greatly preferring rich to poor — as you can imagine. And so they’re blinded to the challenges of wealth.
Hence, Solomon was apparently raised by Bathsheba to be closer to God than his brothers. But Solomon, who grew up a prince in a palace, didn’t raise his oldest — Rehoboam — nearly as well as he was raised by his mother. Rehoboam is a classic spoiled brat, raised by a good father who didn’t realize how badly he was spoiling his son or the dreadful consequences of his bad parenting.