When we read about the southern tribe of Judah, we must remember to include the tribe of Benjamin because most of them were absorbed into Judah.
Because the land of Simeon was divided between the north and south, much of the tribe of Simeon was also included in Judah. The northern kingdom was to be known as Israel and the southern kingdom was to be known as Judah.
Whilst Rehoboam gathered as much men together as he could to go to war against the northern king, he receives a message from God through Shemaiah the man of God. The message was simple, Rehoboam must give up his plans in trying to conquer the northern tribes.
The reason for this is because it was God’s plan to divide the kingdom, 1 Kings 11:26-39, and Rehoboam will fail in his quest to try and unite them again because he would be going against God’s will.
Rehoboam wisely listens to what God says and obeys Him and everyone returned home, 1 Kings 12:21-24.
Whilst living in Jerusalem, Rehoboam builds cities for the defence of Judah, this was because the kingdom was now divided, and so, Judah was left very vulnerable. He builds or fortifies fifteen key cities to protect all trading routes, as well as put in place defensive measures against the northern kingdom.
At this point in time, his greatest threat wasn’t going to come from his brothers in the north, but from the southeast, that is, from Egypt.
When the kingdom was divided, Jeroboam built places for sacrifices in Bethel and Dan, and by doing this, he kept the people from going to the temple in Jerusalem.
This move didn’t go well with the priests and Levites, and so, they forsook the apostasy of Jeroboam. That’s why they left and abandoned everything, it was because of the idolatry of Jeroboam, 1 Kings 12:26-33.
Jeroboam subsequently established his own paid priesthood, 1 Kings 12:31 / 1 Kings 13:33. There wasn’t a shortage of people around who would gladly take a pay to act as a priest, and so, he had no problem in finding false priests to administer the sacrifices at Bethel and Dan, 1 Kings 12:25-33. Those who were genuine priests were rejected by Jeroboam and his men.
Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.
‘Jeroboam’s ‘casting off’ of the Levites, his images of the he-goats, and the fact of the Levites losing their possessions in order to live in Judah are not mentioned in Kings. Thus the Chronicler makes it clear enough that there was absolutely nothing whatever honourable or legitimate in the sinful worship Jeroboam installed in Israel. The priests and Levites who were deposed could still have kept their lands, but they relinquished them in order to live in Judah where they could carry on their calling. They were accompanied by laymen who shared their disillusionment.’
Moses told us what this worship of the he-goats was like, when he forbade it to Israel, Leviticus 17:7. There can be little doubt that the golden calves set up by Jeroboam were also used in the same licentious manner, 1 Kings 12:25-33.
Notice that ‘those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the LORD, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the LORD’.
A remnant of all twelve tribes took lived in the territory of Judah, which is significant in reference to the Babylonian captivity that would occur in 586 B.C. In this captivity, a remnant of all twelve tribes was taken to Babylon.
Rehoboam’s kingdom was strong for three years, that is, until Shishak came from Egypt, defeated him, and took all of the treasures of the temple and royal house back to Egypt, 2 Chronicles 12.
They walked in the way of David and Solomon for three years, however, this didn’t last much longer, because Rehoboam’s general started to go towards ungodliness.
Rehoboam, sadly followed his father, Solomon’s footsteps, when it came to marriage, he had 18 wives and 60 concubines, who together gave him 28 sons and 60 daughters, Deuteronomy 17:17.
He chose Abijah to be his successor. Abijah was the son of Maakah who was the daughter of Absalom.
Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.
‘Abijah certainly was not the first-born of Rehoboam, but as he loved Maakah more than any of his wives, so he preferred her son, probably through his mother’s influence. It was true policy to disperse his own sons through the different provinces who were not likely to form any league with Jeroboam against their father.’