Civil War in Rehoboam's Reign

The civil war in Rehoboam's reign divided the kingdom in two. This was the result of breaking the Sinai Covenant. It also split apart the various holders of promises still binding on ancient Israel from Abraham's time.

Civil War in Israel

The tribes lived together in Egypt for more than 400 years. At the time of the Exodus they were separate identifiable groups. When the orders were given for them to march in the desert, each tribe had their own standard, or banner, what today we would call a flag. They would remain aligned together for another 500 years.

Three kings ruled over all of the tribes, Saul, David, and Solomon. This was probably the high point in the development of the ancient nation, for it was under David that most of the nations surrounding Israel were subjected to David's rule. It was during the time of Solomon's reign that the nation built the temple and palace complex in Jerusalem.

After the death of Solomon, civil war broke out between the various factions and after three years the nation emerged as two nations. The northern kingdom, still known as Israel, headed by Jeroboam, and the southern kingdom, known as Judah, headed by Rehoboam.

This rift was God's will for the nation, and reflected in many ways that the covenant with God had been broken. Being divided into two was the symbolic meaning of the fire pot as it passed through the pieces before Abraham, and now the nation itself was split in two.

The splitting of the nation into two groups was the result of breaking covenant with God, but not Abraham's covenant. Abraham's covenant was unconditional. The broken covenant was the Mosaic Covenant the nation entered into at Sinai. The components of Abraham's covenant don't change at all because of broken covenant. We continue following those components here...

The northerners lost access to Jerusalem as the capital and so choose Tizrah and later Samaria as their capital. The southerners remained at Jerusalem.

These two kingdoms held various promises made to Abraham. The promises matched the tribes that made up each nation. The following two tables take the previous promises table and split it along the same lines as the nation was split at the time of the civil war. The first chart is the same list of patriarchs and promises that landed in the northern kingdom, the second chart is the southern kingdom. Note that the Levites were spread proportionately throughout the kingdom, so it has a representative group in both nations.

Northern Kingdom's Patriarchs and Promises

The following are just the northerners.

Generation 4 Generation 5 Promise
Reuben will no longer excel...[1]
...scatter them in Jacob and disperse in Israel.[2]
...will provide justice for his people...[3]
...a doe set free...[4]
...attacked by raiders...[5]
Asher will be rich.[6]
...submit to forced labor.[7]
...haven for ships.[8]
...become a people, become great.[9]
...greater and a group of nations.[10]

Southern Kingdom's Patriarchs and Promises

The following are just the southerners.

Generation 4 Generation 5 Promise
...scatter them in Jacob and disperse in Israel.[11]
...scepter will not depart...until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.[12]
...devours the prey...divides the plunder.[13]

An interesting thing has happened at this point. The two leading brothers Joseph and Judah are now leading separate kingdoms. The promises that each one holds also lands in these separate kingdoms. The other tribes, not having significant promises, are not really interesting in this story at this level.

These two kingdoms have separate and distinct histories. The Books of 1 and 2 Kings covers the kings in both kingdoms. The Books of 1 and 2 Chronicles omits the Northern Kingdom and focuses exclusively on the southerners.

A Quick FAQ

At this point many objections are raised. They focus on the thought that the northern kingdom would eventually fold back into the southern kingdom. The proof that this is not so is that for the rest of recorded ancient history, every time the southern kingdom raised an army, it would do so with soldiers exclusively from Benjamin and Judah. At one point they hire mercenaries from Ephraim, but this only causes them trouble, so the Ephraimites are sent home angry. This holds true even to the time of the second temple where only men from Benjamin, Judah, and Levi are recorded as having returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the fallen temple.

No doubt members of these various nations had intermingled with each other, indeed, Benjamin was nearly wiped out and every remaining soldier was given a wife from the remaining tribes, so Benjamin is obviously mixed with the others. Also, after the time of the civil war refugees from the northern kingdom did migrate into the southern kingdom, but these people do no change the basic tribal make up of the southern kingdom. The southerners are just Benjamin, Judah, and some Levites.

The civil war that lead to this split is the point where the chronological components of the Sinai Covenant begin to count time. The next article explores the start and stop dates for that period.

1. Genesis 49:4
2. Genesis 49:7
3. Genesis 49:16
4. Genesis 49:21
5. Genesis 49:19
6. Genesis 49:20
7. Genesis 49:15
8. Genesis 49:13
9. Genesis 48:19
10. Genesis 48:19
11. Genesis 49:7
12. Genesis 49:10
13. Genesis 49:27