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The factors leading to the division of the kingdom

After the death of King Solomon, the United Kingdom which King David had built was divided into two. One part had its capital in Samaria and the other had its headquarters in Jerusalem. The reasons for this division can be grouped under two headings; immediate and remote causes.

Solomon contributed a great deal to the division of the Kingdom. He introduced forced unpaid labour to help him execute his building projects. This was an encroachment on the freedom of the people. He imposed high taxes which created resentment against his reign. Solomon divided the country into twelve districts and each division was to supply the needs of his palace for once in a month. This put so many burdens on the divisions with a comparatively low human population.

Rehoboam, who succeeded Solomon as king was first crowned in Judah and needed to be anointed in Shechem in the north also. The people of the north, led by Jeroboam, came to Rehoboam and asked him to lessen the burdens his father had placed on them while alive. Rehoboam asked them to come in three days for the answer.

Rehoboam consulted the elders who sat in counsel with his father and they asked him to listen to the Northerners if he wanted to rule over them. After that advise he also consulted his peers who advised him to increase their burden even more. When the Northerners came back, Jeroboam answered them in a hash manner according to the council of his peers.

With this answer, the Northerners broke away from Rehoboam and Jeroboam was made the king in the northern kingdom. These were just two of the many causes of the breakup of the United Kingdom of Israel. In other words, they constituted the remote causes.

There were remote causes too.
Geographically, the land of Palestine was not uniform. There were many natural barriers which hindered effective communication and therefore affected unity. The land was made up of hilly areas, laced with valleys like the Jordan Valley, and other areas were mountainous.

The pattern of settlement of the Israelites was another factor. The Israelites settled in three different patterns. Judah and Simon came across the desert through the Southern route. Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh took the middle route or the Trans-Jordan. The last group entered through the Northern route. With different modes of settlement, the Israelites looked at themselves as having different identities.

By the time the Israelites arrived in Canaan, there were Canaanites on the land. They had to settle amongst these Canaanites and some of these Canaanite settlements separated the Israelite tribes from each other. This did not contribute to unity.

David was able to bring the hitherto separate kingdoms under himself through two separate coronations in the south and later in the north. The unity was therefore fragile and was only typified in the person of the king. Also after the failed rebellion of Absalom, David appealed to the southerners to bring him back home. This act of favouritism made the Northerners feel alienated.

There were religious factors as well. The religious leaders did not like the centralization of power in the hands of a Monarch with its attendant problems.  The biblical writers saw the division of the kingdom as a punishment from God because of Solomon’s harsh rule and his marriage to foreign women.

Finally, when Rehoboam gathered troops to quell Jeroboam’s rebellion, Prophet Shemaiah stopped him with an explanation that the rebellion was from God.

1. a. Give an account of the division of the kingdom?
    b. What three unwise policies of Solomon led to the division?

2. a. Identify the actions of Solomon which are commended as works of wisdom.
    b. State three unwise policies of Solomon.

3. What factors led to the secession of the Northern Kingdom from the Southern Kingdom under Rehoboam?

4. Discuss five reasons which led to the division of the kingdom?

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