1 Kings 12 (John D’s Paraphrase Version)
Rehoboam, son of Solomon, and all of Israel gathered in Shechem in order to anoint Rehoboam as King of All Israel.
Now, Jeroboam, son of Nebat, was still living in Egypt after fleeing the presence of King Solomon. So, he heard of the death of Solomon, and a request that Jeroboam appear before Rehoboam with representatives from the northern tribes of Israel (the House of Israel) and petition the new king for certain things. So, he came to Shechem to speak with Rehoboam.
So, Jeroboam appeared before Rehoboam while all of the representatives of the House of Israel were gathered, and he said, “King Rehoboam, your father made our burdens very hard and caused much grief amongst the people. Please now, lighten the burdens of the people, including their tax obligations to the king which were placed upon them, and we promise to serve you.”
Rehoboam was not sure how to answer, and frankly the whole questioning of his authority annoyed him greatly, so he said, “Give me three days to consider your request and return after 72 hours.” So, the delegation left the presence of the king.
King Rehoboam realized his father was a very wise man, and much of his wisdom was because he kept wise advisors around him. So, he asked the advisors of his father what to do. “How shall I answer these people?” he asked.
The old advisors answered, “Be as a servant to them. Let them know that you have their best interest at heart. Do this, speak well to them, and they will serve you all your life.”
However, Rehoboam did not like this answer. In fact, he was secretly angry with their request and feared it would show weakness to the people. So, he asked his drinking companions of his own age what he should do. “How shall I answer these people?” he asked them. “They ask for me to lighten their taxes and their compulsory service, which my father had placed upon them.”
Rehoboam’s young companions said, “Tell them that you are now king. You are in charge. Tell them to submit to your authority. Tell them to stop crying, or you will give them something to cry about! Tell them that if they do not stop, then you will make their pain seem insignificant according to how your father (expletive deleted) them!”
And so it was, after three days, Jeroboam and the delegation returned to have an audience with King Rehoboam. The king spoke to them with disdain and disrespect. He accused them of being rebellious, selfish, power hungry, hostile to authority and seeking a following after themselves. He answered according to how his drinking companions told him to respond. “I am now king, duly appointed by our agreed upon procedures of governance. I am in charge, and you are required by YHWH to submit. You must submit to my legal authority, and if you don’t stop your whining, I’ll give you something to cry about!”
The king would not listen, as this was a punishment from YHWH, that he might performed what He said to His prophet Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam son of Nebat.
So, all of the House of Israel saw the king would not hearken to their voice. They then answered, “What alliances should we have with the House of David? Did we receive any inheritance or have any stake in the House of Jesse? To your own territories, O House of Israel! Leave David to look after his own!” And so, the delegation left the presence of Rehoboam and went home. As for those who lived in the territory of Judah, however, Rehoboam remained as their king.
Later, Rehoboam and Adoram the tax collector went to the territory of the House of Israel to “seek reconciliation” with them, by force if necessary. In a united front, they stoned Adoram to death. King Rehoboam got in his chariot and fled for his life. The House of Israel remained in rebellion against the House of David to this day.
Soon, word spread that Jeroboam had returned and was in the northern territory known as Israel. All the people gathered together and agreed to make him king over the House of Israel. None in the northern territories followed the House of David. Only the territory known as Judah did so.
Rehoboam had returned to Jerusalem, and he gathered together the representatives of Judah and Benjamin to plot a war against Israel. They assembled an army of 180,000 fit warrior to fight and bring the House of Israel into subjection by force (no Levites were allowed to fight, so they weren’t consulted).
However, God spoke to Shemaiah the prophet of YHWH and said, “Tell King Rehoboam of Judah, son of Solomon, and all of the houses of Judah and Benjamin and anyone else living in the territory of Judah, “Thus says YHWH, ‘Do not go up to fight your relatives belonging to the Children of Israel, but return to your own homes. This think is from me. Return and leave their land, and obey the voice of YHWH.’”
Jeroboam built a palace in Shechem of Mount Ephraim to live. He also built up Penuel as an alternate palace.
Now, Jeroboam was considering his rule and how he can hold onto power. He pondered, “If the people go to the Temple at Jerusalem to sacrifice to YHWH, they may be influenced by the Jews to look upon Rehoboam favorably and turn against me. They may even go so far as to plot to kill me and give my land to him.”
So, he consulted with his advisors, and he made two golden calves. He placed one in Bethel and the other in Dan. Then, he announced, “It is too far for you to travel to Jerusalem each year, O Israel! Look! Here are the gods who brought you up out of Egypt! Stay here and worship them on the fifteenth day of the eighth month rather than risk your safety and travel to Jerusalem. After all, did I not command it? It is my responsibility to interpret the Laws of YHWH to you, and you would not want to risk breaking any of my judgments!”
And so, the majority of the people obeyed, and they either went to Dan or Bethel to worship before the golden calves. Jeroboam built high places for the people to worship in. He also established a priesthood of anyone who wished, instead of only making Levites priests. He then employed the non-Levite priests in the high places. Jeroboam himself offered sacrifices on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, a day which Jeroboam had made up to worship on. He offered meat on the altar as well as burnt incense.
And, he reminded the people that he had the authority to make such judgments, so they needed to submit to his authority.