The political and religious schism (1 Kings 12:25-12:33)

“Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim. He resided there. He then built Penuel. Then Jeroboam said to himself. ‘Now the kingdom may well revert to the house of David. If this people continue to go up to offer sacrifices in the house of Yahweh at Jerusalem, the heart of this people will turn again to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah. They will kill me and return to King Rehoboam of Judah.’ So the king took counsel. He made two calves of gold. He said to the people. ‘You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Here are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.’ He set one in Bethel. The other he put in Dan. This thing became a sin. The people went to worship before the one at Bethel and before the other as far as Dan. He also made houses on high places. He appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites. Jeroboam appointed a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the festival that was in Judah. He offered sacrifices upon the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he had made. He placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made. He went up to the altar which he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he alone had devised. He appointed a festival for the people of Israel. He went up to the altar to offer incense.”

For the first time we have two kings, one in Judah and the other for the rest of Israel in Shechem as the political break is complete. Jeroboam built a place in Shechem that was in Ephraim territory rather than in Manasseh. He also built a place on the east side of the Jordan in Gad, named Penuel, a place where Gideon had some problems in Judges, chapter 8. Then Jeroboam did not want the Israelites to go to Jerusalem. Thus, he set up other places to worship Yahweh. He built two golden calves. Does that sound familiar? The golden calf as a golden bull was a symbol of Baal. He put one in Dan on the northern border while the other was in Bethel on the southern border in Ephraim, on the way to Jerusalem. He created his own festival. He had priests that were not Levites. The Levites did not have a strong role in this Israel society like they did in Judah. Jeroboam himself offered incense and sacrifices on the various high altars. Clearly, he was setting up an alternative worship service to that of Jerusalem. He was against the traditional ways of Jerusalem. Now the political schism had become a religious schism as well.

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