12th February: I Kings 12.26-32; 13.33-34; Ps 105; Mark 8.1-10
Rehoboam was Solomon’s son. When he succeeded to his father’s throne a delegation asked him to ‘lighten your father’s harsh tyranny now, and the weight of the burden he laid on us, and we will serve you.’ Rehoboam responded maladroitly with the boast that ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! My father made you bear a heavy burden. I will make it heavier still. My father beat you with whips; I am going to beat you with scourges.’ [I Kings 12.4, 10-11, 14] The people’s response was schism from the House of David.
Jeroboam did understand, though, that key to David’s political success had been his religious policy. David made Jerusalem, rather than any local shrine, to be the spiritual as well as the political heart of his kingdom. Jeroboam tries to imitate this achievement by establishing a northern temple in Beth-el, where anciently God had appeared to the patriarch Jacob and had renewed with him his covenant with Jacob’s grandfather Abraham. [Genesis 28.19] Since the Levitical priests remained in Jerusalem Jeroboam created a new hierarchy. Apparently ignorant of the sin of Aaron [Exodus 32] he manufactured golden calves as the locus of worship. This sacrilege ‘made the House of Jeroboam a sinful House, and caused its ruin and extinction from the face of the earth.’