Once upon a time in the ancient middle east their lived a wise and wealthy king named Solomon. His father, David, had been the first to truly unify the Hebrew tribes as a nation. He was heralded as a great social reformer and a political scourge to people vying for power positions. No one had a neutral opinion about David, he was either loved or despised.
David loved many women and when he came to die his sons rivaled violently for the crown. The young Solomon came into his inheritance: an unlikely candidate. Solomon was not the oldest, strongest, or most well maneuvered. His kingdom was established by the tearful pleas of his mother, a woman stolen out from under her murdered husband, a trusted leader in David’s military.
Solomon’s devotion was construction. His completion of the temple in Jerusalem solidified his national popularity enabling him to expand his opulent empire with taxes. The people were accustomed to giving their glad contribution to the temple construction, so they took little notice as their taxes slowly increased.
Solomon collected horses, foreign idols, women, and exotic animals. He was considered a great benefactor to entrepreneurship, connoisseur of the arts, and a philanthropist. Indeed, he instituted many successful social programs, and important world leaders sought his input for their own governments.
Solomon had success.
Little by little his collections and achievements tore the kingdom apart. As the incense burned on the idols’ pyre, his horses, animals, servants, and women multiplied while their was no end of construction work. Solomon’s house required increasingly more revenue to sustain it. Even with riches pouring in from foreign countries, the people grew weary of the burden on their income and they resented Solomon’s disrespect of their monotheistic heritage.
After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam, under the influence of his peer group, flaunted his intention to increase taxes and labor requirements, against the advise of his father’s counselors. The people threw rocks at Rehoboam’s foreman until he died. The working people who lived in the country succeeded from the union, rallying under a prominent construction worker named Jeroboam. A civil war began, as Judah’s metropolitan people went out to fight their rural cousins.
God intervened, telling everyone to go home. Thus the schism: Israel and Judah became separate nations until the deluging Assyrian empire swallowed up Israel and nearly drowned Judah.
Adapted from 1 Kings chapters 1 through 12