The Places of Rehoboam and Jeroboam
Shechem – (see the post The Tribes of Israel and Shechem) Why or if Rehoboam choose this place for his coronation is not mentioned in Scriptures but its history links it to Jacob (Genesis 34). It is also important in the start of the nation with Joshua because this is where the “Blessings and Curses” were recited (Deuteronomy 27:12 and Joshua 8:30). Shechem was also a city of refuge where people could find sanctuary if they were accused of murder and had not yet been tried (Numbers 35:9). It was also in Manasseh so for Rehoboam to pick this city would have had major unifying step to start his reign. But his poor judgment in accepting bad advice divided the kingdom. This is where Judah was elevated over his three older brothers and where his descendent split the nation of Israel.
Peniel or Penuel– This is the second city that Jeroboam “built up” or fortified in 1 Kings 12:25. The name means “face of God” and it is first mentioned with Jacob and his wrestling matching with the angel (Genesis 32: 30). This is when he was renamed Israel and met his brother the next day. The landmark that is mentioned is the Jabbok River on the east side of the Jordan in the Land of Gad. The area is also part of the story of Gideon and the city was punished for not helping him in a time of need. The Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible adds a twist to the why this city question. It is near the King’s Highway trade route and they hypothesize it was to control the trade (money). It is also in the Valley of Succoth and is more or less in a line with Shechem so it would form the southern boundary of the new nation. I can’t help but think that Jeroboam son of Nebat was still making a connection to Israel’s past and identifying with Jacob thus furthering his gods of gold as legitimate.
Shiloh – The name means tranquil. It was the first meeting place for the Israelites (Joshua 18) and is where the Ark of the Covenant was housed before the Temple was built so it was the major place of worship (Judges 18 and 1 Samuel 1). The prophet Ahijah lived there and this is where the wife of Jeroboam came to seek answers about her sick son (1 Kings 14). But this place was rejected by God because of Israel’s unfaithfulness and was desolate by the time of Jeremiah (chapter 26).
Bethel – The name means House of God and this is the place where Jacob saw the staircase to Heaven and God spoke with him (Genesis 12). It was part of the circuit that Samuel traveled when he judged Israel (1 Samuel 7). Jeroboam probably picked this because of how close it was to Jerusalem, was in the land belonging to Benjamin, and the connection to Jacob. The sin was so bad that in the prophet Amos’ day Bethel was condemned. FYI – The problem started with the first Jeroboam and Amos’ prophecies came during the second Jeroboam’s reign, Jeroboam son of Jehoash (2 Kings 14: 21).
Dan – (see the post Dan) The city and the tribe was considered the northern most part of Israel. So the saying from Dan to Beersheba meant from the north to the south. This area started wrong and never stopped. From Joshua 19:47 we see that they did not take control of their inheritance but instead went to Laish or Leshem. They killed everyone and set up their own priest and ignored God’s order of priest (Judges18: 30). Their priests were from Moses’ family not from Aaron’s. Note – this really is what Jeroboam son of Nebat did maybe that is why Dan is “lost” on so many of the Family List, they simply rejected what God had for them and did things their own way.
Egypt – The land of false gods and slavery, an enemy that did not quit until Babylon destroyed them. Yet almost without exception (Jonah is the only one I can think of) Israelites run back to Egypt. I know it is a spiritual picture of what not to do and of the sin we are to leave behind us. Jeroboam is a good example; Shishak gave him a place to hide but history indicates that when he invade Judah he kept going and subjected the Northern Kingdom also. The lesson here is RUN TO GOD NOT YOUR PAST.
Jerusalem/City of David – This is a name-dropper situation. Saying the City of David just made everything “look” better.
Built-up towns -2 Chronicles 11:6 -10. Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible helps make sense of why these towns were picked by Rehoboam. This blocked the mountain passes from the south (Egypt) and set a defensive perimeter to the east and west of Judah. Looking at these marked off on a map this was a well thought out course of action the only place really not defended was to the north.
Map from: http://www.bible-history.com/maps/israel_judah_kings.html