God gave King Solomon wisdom to be a good ruler, as well as wealth, power and a long life. When He spoke to Solomon, He told him, “As long as you continue to obey Me, these things will be yours.”
But Solomon did not continue to obey God. While he was a wise ruler, he made choices in his own life that were not wise. God had commanded the Israelites not to marry people who did not worship Him. But Solomon was so rich and powerful he could marry any princess from any country he wanted. And he did. Thinking he was only being polite, he bowed down and prayed to their statues. Before too long, his heart began to wander away from God.
Solomon even built places to worship some of these statues on a hill. God appeared to Solomon twice, reminding him that what he was doing was wrong. But Solomon’s heart did not completely belong to God the way David’s had.
God told Solomon, “Because you have chosen to follow your own will instead of Mine, the kingdom will not stay in your family after you die. Out of remembrance for David I will let your son have one tribe, to rule from Jerusalem. But the other tribes will be given to one of your servants.”
One day when Solomon’s servant, Jeroboam was walking from Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah met him and took off his coat. He ripped it into twelve pieces, and gave Jeroboam ten of the pieces. “After Solomon dies,” he told him, “you will become king of ten of the tribes. But Solomon’s family will still get to rule in Jerusalem.” But God gave Jeroboam the same warning He had given Solomon: the kingdom will only be yours as long as you continue to obey Me and worship only Me.
When Solomon heard of this, he chased after Jeroboam, but Jeroboam went to Egypt to hide.
When Solomon died, everyone in Shechem gathered to crown his son Rehoboam as the next king of Israel. The people from the ten northern tribes asked Rehoboam if he would make them work as hard as Solomon did.
Rehoboam asked his father’s officials for their advice. They told him he should promise to be a kind and gentle ruler.
Then he asked his friends who were young like him for their advice. They told him he should rule the people by making them fear him.
So, Rehoboam told the people, “My father was weak compared to me. If you thought your work under him was hard, just wait till you see how hard I will make you work.”
So, the people from the ten northern tribes sent for Jeroboam to come back from Egypt and chose him to rule over them instead of Solomon’s son.
So now there were two Israels: the Northern Kingdom, and the Kingdom of Judah to the south. The Northern Kingdom was larger, but Judah had the city of Jerusalem, with Solomon’s temple. God had told Jeroboam that Jerusalem, where Rehoboam ruled, would still be the city where all Israelites would come to worship Him at the temple Solomon built. The tribe of Levi were the priests, and they lived in Judah.
The two kingdoms sometimes lived together peacefully, and sometimes fought. Sometimes one of their kings led his people to worship God, while the other built shrines for statues. Sometimes the kings of both countries disobeyed God. God would send many prophets to both kings for hundreds of years, but unfortunately, the number of kings who obeyed God was much smaller than the number of kings who disobeyed Him.