Story of the Old Testament - Lesson 10

By Glen Pemberton

Title: Solomon and the Division of Israel

Text: I Kings 3-12

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. To help the student grasp the basic story line of the Old Testament as it develops in I Kings 3-12.
  2. To examine the triumphs and tragedies of the life of Solomon and reflect on the relevance of his story for our own lives.
  3. To emphasize that God’s desire for people is to trust him, not themselves.


  1. A Bible for each student.
  2. A chalkboard or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #10 (“Solomon and the Division of Israel”)


The fledgling nation of Israel does not last long as a united country. After David, Solomon reigns and continues the glory years of Israel. Unfortunately, many of Solomon’s actions lead to the demise of the nation. This lesson will review the reign of Solomon and explore the division of the nation into the two nations of North Israel and South Judah after his death. Special focus will be placed upon the triumphs of Solomon and his failures to trust the Lord as he should.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class:

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors. Make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests & leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Review and set the stage for today’s study.
    1. We have seen the family of Israel emerge as a nation in the past several weeks.
      1. Under the leadership of Joshua, the Israelites entered the land promised to them by God.
      2. Under the leadership of various heroes (judges), the Israelites were saved from the consequences of their own sinfulness.
      3. After a plea for a king and God’s consent, Samuel anointed Saul as the first king of Israel.
      4. Saul failed to trust the Lord and was replaced by David ? “the man after God’s own heart.”
      5. After a long reign, David names his son Solomon as the next king of Israel (I Kings 1).
    2. In many respects, the nation of Israel reaches its highest moment during the reign of Solomon. At the same time, Israel is headed for one of its lowest moments. Thus, today’s lesson is the story of “the best of times and the worst of times.”
  2. Solomon’s reign as king.
    1. Solomon’s first recorded action is to establish or solidify his grasp on the throne (I Kgs 2-4). He does this in a number of ways.
      1. He removes (puts to death) key leaders who oppose him: Joab, Abiathar, and Adonijah (I Kgs 2).
      2. He enters marriage alliances with foreign countries, e.g., Egypt (3:1-2; read & discuss at a later point).
      3. The Lord gives Solomon great wisdom to rule the people (Read 3:3-15). Q. How does the gift of wisdom help Solomon solidify his hold on the throne?
    2. The gift of wisdom was primarily for the purpose of ruling well or wisely.
      1. Solomon establishes the state apparatus: officials, taxation districts, etc. He builds the governmental structure for an empire (I Kgs 4).
    3. Solomon had many triumphs during his reign:
      1. His most famous action was the construction of the temple.
        1. David had wanted to build the temple, but the Lord prohibited it. Instead, the Lord had promised to build David’s house and that his son (Solomon) would build the temple for the Lord (reread II Sam 7:12-13).
        2. The construction of the temple is retold in some detail in I Kgs 5-8. Here, only a few observations are in order.
          1. Read I Kgs 5:6-8, 13-18 Q. How did Solomon build the temple? A. He hired foreign workers and conscripted forced labor in Israel. This will be important information for a later point.
          2. Read part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the Temple: 8:22-30(ff). Solomon recognizes two important things & makes one request.
            1. He recognizes that God has kept his promise to David (8:22-26)
            2. He recognizes that the temple cannot contain God - at best it is a symbolic place of God’s name! (8:27)
            3. He requests that God hear the prayers directed toward the temple (8:28-30)
      2. He ruled with great wisdom (3:16-28; 4:29-34).
      3. He conducted many other great building projects (7:1-12).
      4. He brought incredible wealth into the country through trading. In many respects, this was the “best of times” for the nation (9:26-28; 10:14-29)
    4. Unfortunately, Solomon also made some serious mistakes.
      1. His building projects were wonderful, but
        1. They exacted a heavy toll in taxes and labor.
        2. Solomon may have exceeded his ability to pay for his projects (I Kgs 9:10-14 documents a payment dispute).
      2. Solomon amassed a strong military (Read 10:26-29)
        1. Q. What was the problem with building up the military by purchasing horses & chariots from Egypt?
        2. A. Read Deut 17:16. Solomon seems to be making the same type of mistake Saul made; he is beginning to trust in himself & his abilities rather than in God.
      3. Solomon marries many foreign wives (Read 10:1-8)
        1. Q. Why did Solomon marry so many women? A. Most, if not all of his marriages were politically motivated. During this time, treaties (e.g., trade agreements) with other nations were frequently sealed by marriages between the ruling families.
        2. Q. What was the problem with this type of marriage treaty? A. Read Deut 17:17. The law for the king strictly prohibited this method of building an empire!
        3. Q. What consequences does Solomon’s action have? A. These women turn his heart to foreign gods.
    5. Because of this failure to obey the first commandment (“No other gods before me”), the Lord announces punishment upon Solomon. Read I Kgs 11:9-13. Q. What is the Lord going to do?
      1. Tear the kingdom away from you (very similar to the punishment of Saul for the same type of sin). The Lord grants two concessions to Solomon for the sake of David:
        1. This will not happen during his lifetime, but during the lifetime of his son.
        2. The entire kingdom will not be taken away. One tribe (family group) will be left for the descendants of David to rule over.
      2. The remainder of today’s lesson traces the fulfillment of these punishments against Solomon.
  3. The division of the nation.
    1. First, introduce the key persons in this drama.
      1. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon and heir apparent of the throne.
      2. Jeroboam, a former political minister to Solomon who had fallen into trouble with Solomon and ran away to Egypt for safety (I Kgs 11:26-40).
    2. What happens?
      1. Solomon dies (11:41-43)
      2. Rehoboam (Solomon’s son) takes the throne and is faced with a crisis (Read 12:1-5). Q. What is the nature of the crisis? A. The excesses of Solomon’s reign blow up in his son’s face! The people are angry about the level of taxation and labor and demand that Rehoboam lessen the load.
      3. Rehoboam consults two groups of people (read 12:6- 11). Q. What does each group encourage Rehoboam to do?
        1. The older men advise Rehoboam to do what the people want.
        2. The younger men advise Rehoboam to threaten the people with even more taxation & work.
      4. Three days later, Rehoboam must announce his decision (Read 12:12-15). Q. What does Rehoboam decide? A. He threatens the people with even more work & taxation.
      5. Q. How do you think the people will react? How would you react? A. Read 12:16-19.
        1. The people who live in the northern territory of Israel (North Israel) say “forget you” (12:16).
        2. When Rehoboam sends the supervisor of forced labor to the northern territory, they stone him to death (12:18).
        3. Soon, N. Israel anoints their own king ? Jeroboam
        4. Rehoboam wants to go to war and although God forbids it, the two nations fight for many years.
      6. The punishment announced to Solomon has been carried out. There is no longer a united kingdom of Israel, but two distinct nations.
        1. North Israel, ruled by Jeroboam.
        2. South Judah, ruled by Rehoboam (and the family of David in the future).
      7. The short lived united kingdom is over!
    3. Jeroboam takes several steps to solidify the Northern Kingdom and make sure that it remains independent of South Judah:
      1. He establishes a new capital & government.
      2. He establishes new sanctuaries (Holy Places) at Dan & Bethel for the people (he feels he must prevent the people from traveling to Jerusalem to worship [I Kgs 12:26-27]).
      3. He creates a new group of priests.
      4. He establishes new religious festivals to rival those in Jerusalem.
      5. In sum, Jeroboam leads the North Israel away from the Lord!


(about 5 minutes; discuss one or more of the following topics)

  1. Why do you think Solomon failed to obey the laws for the king? What motivated him to act as he did? (Is this the same or different problem than Saul had? What about Rehoboam and Jeroboam? It seems that when a person becomes successful there is a tremendous temptation to trust oneself rather than God.) Do you find yourself ever struggling with the same feelings or attitudes?
  2. Why doesn’t God depose Solomon & his family and select another, perhaps more capable leader? A: God made a promise to David (I Sam 7:12-16) that one of his descendents would always be on the throne. Looking ahead, how does the claim that “Jesus is the Messiah” (which means king) relate to this promise?


Read I Kgs 15:25-18:46; II Kgs 15-17


Prayer that:

  1. Thanks God for his faithfulness to his people and his determination to fix the problem of sin.
  2. Confesses our own struggle to trust the Lord, especially when we become successful.
  3. Asks God to help us remain faithful, to trust in him and not ourselves.

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