Solomon - The Schism and Exile

Solomon, The Schism and Exile

The two books of Kings present the history of David’s death, the reign of Solomon, the schism, and the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722, and the end of the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE.

After the death of David, Solomon (961-922 BCE) assumed the throne with the assistance of Nathan, the prophet, and Zadok, the high priest, after his older brother Adonijah attempted to take over (1 Kings 01:01-53). David had 17 sons (of which Adonijah was fourth) by four or more wives. Solomon was tenth in succession. Solomon ordered the death of Adonijah and others who challenged his claim to the throne.

He also made his throne secure by political alliances through marriage to the Pharaoh’s daughter and trade pacts with Hiram of Tyre. Thus the chief powers, Egypt to the south and Tyre to the north, would be his allies. Tyre also provided links to the outside world through its maritime trade.

To strengthen his control over the land he organized a 12 province system replacing the old tribal plan. He increased taxation which increased the discontent of the people. He engaged in a major building program with the use of forced labor which alienated the people even more.

Solomon’s fame rested in two areas. First, he possessed legendary wisdom (1 Kings 03:05-09; 1 Kings 05:09-14), and second, as a builder. The temple was his chief accomplishment (1 Kings 06-08), with the design coming from Hiram because the Phoenicians were famed for their temples. The labor force came from Israel. It is not possible for archaeologists to excavate the site on temple mount because the ruins are under the Moslem Dome of the Rock (Haram esh-Sherif).

The Sins of Solomon

Solomon was warned, “Live in my presence as your father David did and I will establish your throne forever. If you or your descendants fail to keep my laws I will cut off Israel and destroy the temple” (1 Kings 09:01-09). He loved many foreign women from nations who the Lord said you shall not intermarry (700 wives, 300 concubines?). He build altars to their Gods “and his heart was turned away from the Lord” (1 Kings 11).

Jeroboam who was in charge of Solomon’s labor force rose up against the king along with others. Ahijah, the prophet who was wearing a new cloak, accosted Jeroboam. He took his cloak off, tore it into twelve pieces, giving ten to him saying, “The Lord will tear away Solomon’s kingdom from his grasp and give you ten of the tribes” (1 Kings 11:30). Jeroboam was forced to flee to Egypt.

Solomon ruled for forty years and when he died the Israelites were already chafing under his tyrannical reign.

The Schism of 922 BCE

Rehoboam, his son, assumed the throne and was forced to meet with the tribal leaders at Shechem because of their discontent. They demanded that the taxes be reduced and that forced labor and the military draft be ceased. He refused and had to flee to Jerusalem to save his life. The ten northern tribes broke away from the kingdom with these dramatic words: “What share have we in David? We have no heritage in the son of Jesse” (1 Kings 12:16). They summoned Jeroboam from exile in Egypt and crowned him king. The north called itself Israel while the south became Judah with Jerusalem as its capital. They had the temple with the ark which was Yahweh’s seat.

Jeroboam, to counteract the cult of the temple and ark, chose two ancient sanctuaries, Dan and Bethel, as his religious centers. At each he built a golden calf.  This was not a god in itself, but rather the seat for the invisible God
(1 Kings 12:26-29). It is most significant that none of the prophets of those times, Elijah, Elisha, Hosea, or Amos, spoke out against this worship. It was the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel who lived after the North was destroyed in 722 BCE that did.

The schism produced two hundred years of rivalry, and sometimes open warfare between the two nations. It was at this time that Assyria became a military power and eventually was to conquer and destroy the North.

The Northern Kingdom, Israel

Israel had nineteen kings of several different dynasties over a period of 200 years.  Many were assassinated. Many were evil. Israel enjoyed its greatest prominence and prosperity under the Omride dynasty a half century after Jeroboam. Omri founded a new capital at Samaria. He married his son Ahab to Jezebel, a daughter of the King of Tyre. She introduced Baalism (1 Kings 18) which brought down the wrath of the prophet Elijah and upon the people.

Their untimely end came after Jezebel plotted the death of Naboth to obtain a vineyard coveted by the king (1 Kings 21). Elijah said to Ahab, “The Lord will destroy you; and the dogs shall devour Jezebel.” There is a cycle of legends attesting to the greatness of Elijah and Elisha.

The last prophets to the North were Hosea and Amos, calling for repentance or God’s judgment would come. The Assyrian king, Shalmaneser, attacked Samaria which resisted for two years, but fell in 722 BCE and many of the leaders were deported. They represent what has been since called the “Lost tribes of Israel.”

Judah, David’s Heritage

There were twenty kings of Judah including one queen mother, Athalia, who seized the throne illegally, from the schism down to the destruction of Jerusalem (586 BCE). Only three, Asa, Hezekiah, and Josiah, kept the faith. Asa (913-873) “pleased the Lord like David did” (1 Kings 15:11). His son Jehoshaphat, tried to continue his father’s reforms but failed.

After seven kings and a queen “who did evil,” Hezekiah’s (715-686) reforms restored Mosaic Yahwism. The Assyrians who vanquished the North (722 BCE), were about to also attack Jerusalem. However Isaiah told Hezekiah that “God would spare the city for the sake of David.” That night the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 men in the enemy camp (2 Kings 19:34-35). The Greek historian Herodutus wrote that the Assyrian army was decimated by the Bubonic plague and was forced to retreat.

Manasseh (687-642) followed and Israel was a vassal state to mighty Assyria. This was the period of the great apostasy (2 Kings 21:01-18).  Josiah’s (640-609) reign brought about a major reform because of the findings of a long lost book of the law (2 Kings 22-23), but “God’s anger burned because of the sins of Manasseh.”: Three more kings were to follow and during the reign of the fourth, Zedekiah (597-586) Judah was conquered by Babylon (596) and the people were exiled to Babylon.

The Jews were permitted to return home by Cyrus of Persia, but never again were a political or military power. They were under the rule of the Egyptian Ptolemies, followed by the Seleucids of Syria, briefly were independent (166-36 BCE), and finally became part of the Roman Empire.

"Solomon - The Schism and Exile" is one of the pamphlets on the biblical foundations of the Catholic Church written May 2008 to Nov 2010 by Deacon Paul Carlson of Minneapolis, Minnesota's St Lawrence Catholic Church / Newman Center, a Paulist Foundation. (St Lawrence is the Catholic Church of Southeast Minneapolis and is right in the heart of "Dinkytown USA".)

This blog post is a memorial serialization of those pamphlets written by Deacon Paul Carlson at the request of than Pastor/Director Fr John J. Behnke, who asked Deacon Paul to write brief answers to questions University students often encountered as Catholics.

At couple of weeks before Deacon Paul's death, he said: "If there are any financial gains made from the blog serialization of my pamphlets, please have the money given to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers, because what they do is so important." If you can, send memorials to St. Lawrence Parish and Newman Center or Paulist Fathers at 1203 Fifth Street, S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55414. 

Remember Deacon Paul Carlson in your prayers, as well as all the other souls of the faithful departed, who have died in the grace of Jesus Christ.

No comments:

Post a Comment