1 Kings 12-14; 2 Chronicles 17, 20High Place of Jeroboam
(Nearly all archaeologists agree that this excavated podium was the one that Jeroboam constructed to house the golden calf at Dan. Archaeologists now think the platform was roofed. Evidence of a four-horned altar has been found as well as religious objects such as three iron shovels, a small horned altar, and an iron incense holder.)
Instead of expecting Israel to worship only Jehovah as David did, Solomon built temples to the gods of his foreign wives.
Because of Solomon’s betrayal of Jehovah, Jeroboam was anointed and ordained as the future King of Israel. And because he ruled Israel so harshly, he left Israel and his son Rehoboam little room to negotiate and maneuver.
Dear Abby’s Advice to New Royalty – Listen to the Old Guys!
1 Kings 12-14
Israel’s unity as a kingdom was fragile. Rehoboam inherited his father’s penchant to annoy and punish the 10 Tribes. And they knew it.
Jeroboam, previously anointed King of Israel, returned from Egyptian exile. Surely, many in Israel were wary of making such a drastic dynastic change, and so Jeroboam decided to present an immediate challenge to Rehoboam, packaged neatly as a populist demand for basic rights. Israel would gladly accept Rehoboam as king if he would lessen the hardships imposed by his father, Solomon. The young prince sent Israel away for three days while he sought council.
We learn from Rehoboam that if you don’t like the first answer you are given, keep looking around and eventually someone will tell you what you want to hear. And as Voltaire once said, “common sense is not that common.”
Rejecting the council of the elders to accept Israel’s common sense demands, Rehoboam instead followed the guidance from his peers. They insisted the people only understood brute force. If he gave in to Israel now, what would they demand next? His kingdom would immediately be diminished, never being as great as David or Solomon. The young men’s Machiavellian counsel of “whipping them with scorpions” and having a pinkie finger thicker than Solomon’s loins, was clearly meant to tell Israel they were no longer Tribes of the God of Israel, but subjects and servants of the king.
Rehoboam fell head first into Jeroboam’s political trap. He was forced to choose between being a weakened ruler or a tyrant. For him, following sharply in his father’s stead seemed to be the proper choice. Solomon slew or exiled many at the beginning of his reign and succeeded in holding the nation together by force. Rehoboam believed he could do the same.
Israel rebelled, proclaiming Jeroboam their king. The short-lived United Kingdom would never reunite again in history.
Jeroboam’s Ancient Bull Cult
Jeroboam worships the golden calf
Although anointed by a prophet to rule the Ten Tribes, Jeroboam still had a fierce competitor: Solomon’s Temple. In fact, this was Jehovah’s (Yahweh) temple. This was the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses.
As mentioned in previous lessons, Jehovah was one of the divine sons of Elohim or El Elyon. When El divided the nations in the days of Peleg, he assigned a nation to each of his divine sons. Jehovah received the future kingdom of Israel, which he nurtured from Abraham on, until Israel fully came into its own.
Jeroboam knew that Jehovah chose the Levites, and particularly the sons of Aaron to serve him in the temple. Most of the Levitical authority was in Jerusalem and attached to the temple. By the time he could build his own temple to Jehovah, Israel may have defected back to Jerusalem for religious reasons.
Jeroboam needed to provide an option acceptable to his people. He made two calves (young bulls), which anciently symbolized both Elohim and Baal. He did not embrace the local Canaanite god Baal. Instead, I believe he reached back into Israel’s past and resurrected the worship of El Elyon for Israel to follow.
Elohim or El Elyon, being the father of all the gods/divine sons, would have been very familiar to Israelites, Canaanites, and other Semitic tribes in the region. Unlike Jehovah, the invisible mountain God that sat on the mercy seat between the two cherubim in the Jerusalem Temple, Elohim was often represented by bull or calf images that symbolized his power and fertility. He was not assigned to a particular nation, but was father of the gods. And he was often worshiped at wilderness shrines or “high places.”
Jeroboam created not one, but two shrines to El. These were placed in the northern (Dan) and southern border (Beth-el) regions. It seems the king did this for two reasons: first to prevent Israel from leaving to worship elsewhere, and second to encompass the entire land. Jehovah’s temple was confined sacred space. The sacred bulls on the far borders of the land made all of Israel a holy place. There were other reasons to build a high place in Beth-el. First, its name means “House/Temple of El.” It was named anciently by Jacob, when he saw in vision El Elyon on his throne above Jacob’s ladder/staircase (Genesis 28:11-19). Jeroboam adopted and adapted the ancient worship of El to fit his needs.
There was just one problem with Jeroboam’s plan: he had not been authorized by either Elohim nor Jehovah to take such a radical departure. No prophet of God approved his plan, nor anointed the priests, as was done in the cases of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Still, his sin was not as wicked as Baal worship which would come under future kings (2 Kings 3:1-2). Jeroboam’s sin was not of worshiping a god from the Canaanites, but of wrongly worshiping El without God’s permission.
The Curse of Jeroboam
In 1 Kings 13, we find a prophet of God (Jehovah) went to the high place in Beth-El and condemned Jeroboam for his apostate twisted form of worship. The prophet foresaw the future destruction of Jeroboam’s family and the bull idol. Amazingly, Jeroboam did what Solomon and Rehoboam did, continued worshiping false gods. It wasn’t in his interest to repent. As with most people of the day, Jeroboam believed there were many living gods, and Jehovah was just one of many. When Jeroboam’s hand withered as he touched the altar, he asked the prophet of Jehovah to heal his hand. He knew Jehovah had the power to heal, and his hand was healed. Yet, he continued in his apostate worship, because for him, Solomon, and many future kings of Israel and Judah, Jehovah was just one of many.
Because of rebellion, we will see kingdoms ripped from many kings of Israel and Judah over the course of several centuries. Few kings will be considered faithful and true to Jehovah God. However, some soon appear in Judah, such as Asa and Jehoshaphat. Still, it would not be long before Israel is taken from Jeroboam.
Jeroboam’s only son is found on his deathbed. The king sends his wife in disguise to the prophet Ahijah, who originally anointed him king. Ahijah is now old and blind, yet the Lord reveals to him Jeroboam’s wife and her purpose. The prophet tells her that the child would die and the kingdom soon would be torn from the house of Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:1-20).
The account turns to the king of Judah, Rehoboam. Not only did Solomon’s wives lead him to worshiping other gods, but Rehoboam was also affected by his mother’s foreign influence. She was an Ammonite, and brought with her the worship of her land.
This strange religion included, “they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel” (1 Kings 14:23-24).
High places were hills (natural or man made) where ancient people worshiped. High places included Jehovah worship for centuries, and included Jacob’s sacred site at Beth-El (see above). However these high places were often tied to the goddess Asherah. Asherah was known as the goddess of wisdom and fertility. Anciently, she was viewed (or differing versions of her were viewed) as the consort or wife of Elohim, Jehovah, and/or Baal. Asherah was represented by the tree, and often groves were grown in her honor. The version that Rehoboam introduced was probably as a wife of Baal, for it also included “sodomites” or homosexual prostitutes involved in the worship rites.
Asherah was also connected tightly to Jehovah and his temple. She represented the Tree of Life, the mother of God (Jesus). However, direct worship of her was less common among those who worshiped Jehovah. In Nephi’s Vision of the Tree of Life, the Tree is directly connected to the Mother of God, with Jesus as her fruit. Nephi understood this temple symbolism as representing Asherah, the wife of the true God (1 Nephi 8-15).
“And behold this thing shall be given unto thee for a sign, that after thou hast beheld the tree which bore the fruit which thy father tasted, thou shalt also behold a man descending out of heaven, and him shall ye witness; and after ye have witnessed him ye shall bear record that it is the Son of God.
And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow.
And it came to pass after I had seen the tree, I said unto the Spirit: I behold thou hast shown unto me the tree which is precious above all.
And he said unto me: What desirest thou?
And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.
And it came to pass that he said unto me: Look! And I looked as if to look upon him, and I saw him not; for he had gone from before my presence.
And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of Nazareth I beheld a virgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.
And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?
And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.
And he said unto me: Knowest thou the condescension of God?
And I said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (1 Ne 11:7-23).
In these verses we find that Nephi recognizes the Tree of Life as representing the Mother of God. It is the Love/Wife of God that sheds itself through her son (the fruit of the tree) to all mankind.
But this is not the Asherah that Rehoboam built high places to. This is an apostate wife of Baal, encouraging sexual sin and perversion. The sacred things of God have again been distorted and twisted into an apostate form.
To punish Judah, the Lord sent in the Egyptians to punish them. The royal and spiritual treasures of Judah were carried off as the prize for Egypt’s entrance into the land. Rehoboam’s sins not only cost him half the kingdom, but all the kingdom’s riches. He has no choice but to replace the gold implements (such as shields) of his army with items made of bronze. Jehovah’s temple probably received no implements of any kind, since the Bible is silent on the topic (1 Kings 14:25-28), In less than a generation, David’s dream of a temple for the Lord had become an afterthought. Solomon built it, then neglected it in his pursuit of riches and other gods.
2 Chronicles 14-16Judah was occasionally blessed with righteous kings. Among these was Asa. In his days, he
“took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the groves: and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment” (2 Chron 14:2-5).
He built up Judah and had no war in his days, “because the Lord had given him rest” (vs 6).
In chapter 15, the prophet Azariah tells the king and people they shall prosper if they would only follow Jehovah and keep his commandments:
“Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron 15:2).
So upright was Asa’s kingdom in his early years, that not only did Judah and Benjamin repent and follow God, but many faithful people out of “Ephraim and Manasseh, and out of Simeon” immigrated to Jerusalem to worship God and escape the evils being done in Israel (vs 9).
Asa suffered from a lack of faith, when Syria came to war with Judah. Rather than trust in God, Asa emptied all the treasures out of the temple and his palace as a tribute, to send Syria away. Because he lacked the faith to trust in God’s deliverance, he was chastened by the seer Hanani, and smitten with illness, which he died from (2 Chron 16).
Jehoshaphat and Ahab – The Odd Couple
2 Chronicles 17-20
One of the strangest alliances in the Bible was between Jehoshaphat and Ahab.
Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was revered as a very righteous king and follower of Jehovah:
“And the Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the first ways of his father David, and sought not unto Baalim (plural of Baal)” (2 Chron 17:3).
The kingdom that waned under Rehoboam was again growing in glory. Jehoshaphat became rich as king, because the Lord blessed him for his devotion. He removed the groves and high places that Rehoboam and other kings set up (vs 6). He sent the Levites throughout all the land, teaching God’s law to the people (vs 9). So great was God’s glory on Jehoshaphat that other nations feared him and would not go out to war against Judah (vs 10).
On the other hand, Ahab reigned over Israel’s darkest times. His wife was Jezebel, and the worship of Baal and his consort Asherah had become the main worship in the land. Still, Jehoshaphat joined Ahab in fighting Syria.
The Premortal Divine Council
2 Chronicles 18:18-22
Ahab’s apostate prophets all predicted an easy victory for the allies. Yet, Jehoshaphat insisted on hearing from a prophet of Jehovah. Ahab was concerned, because the nearest prophet was Micaiah, who never prophesied well of him. Still, Micaiah was sent for on behalf of Jehoshaphat.
The prophet began mocking Ahab, telling him what the others had said. However, Ahab knew Micaiah spoke falsely and commanded him to tell him the truth. Interestingly, the story is reminiscent of the ancient divine council:
“Again he said, Therefore hear the word of the Lord; I saw the Lord sitting upon his throne, and all the host of heaven standing on his right hand and on his left.
And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab king of Israel, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead? And one spake saying after this manner, and another saying after that manner.
Then there came out a spirit, and stood before the Lord, and said, I will entice him. And the Lord said unto him, Wherewith?
And he said, I will go out, and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And the Lord said, Thou shalt entice him, and thou shalt also prevail: go out, and do even so.
Now therefore, behold, the Lord hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of these thy prophets, and the Lord hath spoken evil against thee” (2 Chron 18:18-22).
Here Micaiah had a theophany, a vision of God on his throne. God was surrounded by the “host of heaven”, which were the ancient divine council (see Isaiah 6, Abraham 3, Job 1). In Abraham, we view the original council, where God asked “whom shall I send?” to be the Savior of mankind. In Isaiah, the Lord asked “whom shall I send?” to preach to the people (Isaiah volunteers as a symbol of Christ). Here, God again asked who should go to entice Ahab. A lying spirit offered to do the work. Some may find this strange, but we find that Satan (Adversary) was among those in the ancient divine councils, and Job even saw him challenge Jehovah for primacy over Israel by tempting Job himself! (Job 1) Here, the same spirit entered into the mouths of the prophets of Baal, leading Ahab to his death in battle.
“So Shall Ye Prosper”
2 Chronicles 19-20
The battle against Syria having gone badly, because the two kings disobeyed Jehovah’s prophet, Jehoshaphat found himself rebuked, and he repented.
His big challenge came when the Ammonites and others attacked Judah. Should he do as previous kings and give up a tribute from the treasuries of the palace and temple? The king went to the temple and prayed:
“And Jehoshaphat stood in the congregation of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the Lord, before the new court,
And said, O Lord God of our fathers, art not thou God in heaven? and rulest not thou over all the kingdoms of the heathen? and in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee?
Art not thou our God, who didst drive out the inhabitants of this land before thy people Israel, and gavest it to the seed of Abraham thy friend for ever?
And they dwelt therein, and have built thee a sanctuary therein for thy name, saying,
If, when evil cometh upon us, as the sword, judgment, or pestilence, or famine, we stand before this house, and in thy presence, (for thy name is in this house,) and cry unto thee in our affliction, then thou wilt hear and help.
And now, behold, the children of Ammon and Moab and mount Seir, whom thou wouldest not let Israel invade, when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them, and destroyed them not;
Behold, I say, how they reward us, to come to cast us out of thy possession, which thou hast given us to inherit.
O our God, wilt thou not judge them? for we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee.
And all Judah stood before the Lord, with their little ones, their wives, and their children.
Then upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation;
And he said, Hearken ye, all Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem, and thou king Jehoshaphat, Thus saith the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chron 20:5-15).
The Lord delivered Judah and their king, because of their faith. Because of that faith, “came the Spirit of the Lord in the midst of the congregation” (vs 14). The priest Jahaziel told them, “stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord…fear not, nor be dismayed” (vs 17).
The next morning, Jehoshaphat cried to his people, “Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper” (vs 20).
Judah found that day that the Ammonites and Moabites had slaughtered themselves, leaving great treasures for the people to spoil. Once again, the “fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the Lord fought against the enemies of Israel. So the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet; for his God gave him rest round about” (vs 29-30).
Even as a righteous king can create an environment of peace and protection from God, so can we do in our families, our churches, and in our lives. However, it requires us to reject the false gods that continually are about us. Many offer sordid pleasures, while others justify our sinful lifestyles. However, only God can create order from the chaos that surrounds us, and bring peace and safety to us. as we follow him and his chosen prophets.
Daniel Peterson, Nephi and His Asherah: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=9&num=2&id=223
The Ancient Divine Council: http://www.thedivinecouncil.com
Map of Divided Israel/Judah: