The Prophet Series: Shemaiah and AhijahPosted: Fri. Oct, 21 2016
Prophet series: Shemaiah and Ahijah
There are several players that must be known in order to appreciate the relevance of these two prophets: Rehoboam (successor to Solomon as king of Judah), Jehoboam (rebel Ephraimite who would be named king of the ten tribes in the north), the tribe of Ephraim, and their bitter rivalry with the tribe of Judah.
Ephraim vs. Judah
Ephraim thought themselves to be powerful. In our last entry we saw that Jacob had prophesied great things for them, and as is so often the case, such promises were blown out of proportion. In addition to the prophecy, Joshua, the actual conqueror of the land, was an Ephraimite, plus, Shechem, the government capital was in Ephraim. Also, Samuel was born in Ephraim and Shiloh, the location of the tabernacle, was also in Ephraim. Considering all these things all together we can easily see why they saw themselves as the governmental and spiritual center of Israel. Plus, they were right in the center of the nation, the first king of Israel, Saul, was from Benjamin, who was a close partner and neighbor. Any person who would have analyzed the twelve tribes would have chosen Ephraim for rulership, yet God is not any person. Beware of pride when attempting to picture the future or the blessings of the future. All the blessings of God will come to every believer, but not in the way that pride or want or lust wishes it to be.
After the demise of Saul, the next king was not selected from his family, or from the tribe of Benjamin, or from the tribe of Ephraim, but from Judah. David's ascension to the throne irked Ephraim thoroughly and many among them continued to esteem rulership as coming from the house of Saul. Furthering this discontent, David established the government in Judah, moving it from Shechem to Jerusalem. He also located the ark of the covenant, and had it moved to Jerusalem establishing Judah as the spiritual center of Israel. An uneasy murmuring was bubbling under the surface of the nation, and then Solomon, David's son and heir, placed severe taxes and other oppressions upon the people in order to complete his many building projects. This was the added pressure that brought the murmuring to a boil, and onto the stage walks Jehoboam the Ephraimite.
Solomon had noticed Jehoboam as a clever and active man and he promoted him to the position of superintendent of some of the works that were being carried out in Jerusalem. One day when Jehoboam had left Jerusalem, he was approached by the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh who told him that God was going to tear the kingdom out of Solomon's hands and give ten tribes to Jehoboam. 1KI 11:30-31 Then Ahijah took hold of the new cloak which was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, "Take for yourself ten pieces; for thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'Behold, I will tear the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon and give you ten tribes.'"
There are a number of important aspects to this prophecy, 1KI 11:31-39. The obvious one is that Jehoboam will undoubtedly be blessed with ruling a great majority of Israel. Added to this is the warning, given by every prophet from God:
1KI 11:38 Then it will be, that if you listen to all that I command you and walk in My ways, and do what is right in My sight by observing My statutes and My commandments, as My servant David did, then I will be with you and build you an enduring house as I built for David, and I will give Israel to you.
So why doesn't anyone know about the enduring house of Jehoboam? He didn't do it. In fact, years later when he came to power, he set up and promoted the worship of two golden calves in imitation of the Egyptian worship of Mnevis.
Also in the prophesy is that Judah is to go on forever, and that is because of David. God's promise to David is eternal and so the tribe must go on, and their own sovereignty over their land must remain until Messiah comes, which it did. This is a promise and a warning to Jehoboam - he is not to make war with Judah, for she is blessed of God because of His promise to David.
The prophecy is given and Jehoboam heads to Ephraim where he must have started the process of plotting rebellion, for Solomon got wind of it and sought his death, to which Jehoboam responded by fleeing to Egypt for protection. He hid out there until the death of Solomon, after which he returned to Ephraim, poised to be named king.
Rehoboam was the only son of Solomon and an Ammorite princess Naamah. He became Solomon's successor and inherited a kingdom that was on the verge of falling apart. Since he rejected Jehovah like his father had, he did not find the resources to repair the already splintering kingdom. In trying to appease the frustrated Ephraimites, he held his coronation in Shechem. There, the people demanded that he lift from them the burdens of taxes and labor that Solomon had cruelly imposed. To this request Rehoboam first consulted his father's advisers, the wisest and most experienced, who advised him to accept the people's plea and ease up. Unsatisfied, Rehoboam sought his young advisers who hadd grown up with the little brat and together as educated little brats, who were nothing more than "yes men" to him, advised the new king to make the people his servants and to actually increase the taxes and the severity of the labor. He famously said in the eastern tradition: 1KI 12:14 "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions." Not smart.
Rehoboam then sent his best tax-collector who was quickly stoned to death. During this time Jehoboam (I realize how hard it is to keep their names straight with just one different letter) returned from Egypt, which at that time had been under the Pharaoh Shishak (I've asked my daughter to name my coming grandson this) who will be important a bit later. Jehoboam was elected king in fulfillment of the prophecy from Ahijah.
Not phased and ready to wield an iron fist upon his own people, Rehoboam assembles an army of 180,000 men to attack Ephraim and re-conquer Israel and God sent the prophet Shemaiah to him. Shemaiah denounces the plan to make war against the ten tribes, and to his credit, about the only thing we can find to call such, Rehoboam listens and returns home and disperses the army. Perhaps he was simply afraid, knowing what God would have done to him and the army if he sallied forth. 1KI 12:24 'Thus says the Lord, "You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me."' So they listened to the word of the Lord, and returned and went their way according to the word of the Lord.
Rehoboam resorted to strengthening the defenses of Judah in order to withstand any invasion from the new northern confederation of the ten tribes of Israel. The year is approximately 970 B.C. This was a waste of time since he did not worship Jehovah, which was the only fortress he needed. He promoted the lascivious worship of Ashtoreth right beside the true religion of the temple and images to Baal were constructed. He boldly rejected God. It is not the north that God is going to send his way for stinging discipline. The enemy approaches… from the south.
Shishak, pharaoh of Egypt who gave asylum to Jehoboam, invaded Judah with a very large army. One would have to assume that Jehoboam, bitter against Judah and Solomon's imposed exile, encouraged this. Shishak led a very successful campaign and he would have easily destroyed Jerusalem had not Jehovah intervened with Shemaiah.
Shemaiah (part 2)
2CH 12:5-6 Then Shemaiah the prophet came to Rehoboam and the princes of Judah who had gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak, and he said to them, "Thus says the Lord, 'You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shishak.'" So the princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said, "The Lord is righteous."
Shemaiah enters the stage a second time in order to clearly reveal why Egypt is able to so easily march in and take God's promised land from Israel, at least temporarily. Rehoboam and the people have forsaken the Lord. Did they think that God wasn't watching or that He wouldn't care? It must sting to know that a little more than 400 years ago, the children of Israel are set free from Egypt only to find themselves again in slavery to them. Swords, spears, infantry, chariots, and cavalry surrounding the city, force the king and the rulers to finally become humble. How wonderful is divine disciple.
It was very fortunate for them that they humbled themselves and admitted, though compelled by fear, that "The Lord is righteous." Due to this the city would be spared, but they were to pay a heavy tribute to Egypt as subjects to them. God was revealing to them what is was like to have Him as a master and then contrast it with what it was like to have Egyptian masters. So many of us know this distinction well: the Lord as my Master or the world and its allure towards wealth, fame, power, and pleasure as my master. It's as distinct as fire and water.
2CH 12:8 "But they will become his [Shishak] slaves so that they may learn the difference between My service and the service of the kingdoms of the countries."
Solomon was famous for his great golden shields that he had artfully made and hung on the walls of his palace. Shishak would take them. Who will own what you have prepared, LUK 12:20? Rehoboam would have new shields made out of bronze and he ordered them paraded around him by his guards as he came in and went out of the palace. No doubt Rehoboam grew up mesmerized by the beauty of his father's golden shields and loved that they were on the palace that he inherited. Only able to afford the construction of bronze ones did he think he could restore the grandeur of Solomon's kingdom by his own means, and did he pretend that nothing had changed and that bronze was just as good as gold? In trying to build a kingdom without God you get bronze, but with God you get gold; the imagery being that bronze is man's craft and gold is God's.
The humiliation at the hands of Shishak humbled Rehoboam enough that the moral condition of Judah returned and no other events in the kings life are mentioned. He died after ruling for sixteen years.
We already saw that it was Ahijah, prophet of Shiloh, who was sent to Jehoboam to tell him that he would rule over the ten tribes of the north. He was promised that his house would endure, just like David's, if he walked in the Lord's ways. Not only did he not, he did worse than anyone before him by instituting the idolatry of Egypt. After some years as king, Jehoboam's son became very ill and he desired to know what would happen to the boy. He devised a plot in that his wife would disguise herself and go to Ahijah to inquire of the Lord what would happen to his son. Why the disguise? Why not just go and ask the prophet? In fact, why not inquire of the golden calves that he worshipped? The king was fully aware that the false gods he worshipped did not speak or heal or do anything, and he obviously knows that Ahijah will know and Jehovah will speak through him. He is certainly aware that Ahijah told him that God would give him the northern kingdom, and He did; yet he does not repent of his ways. This blind way of fallen man has to truly be one of the great conundrums of the ages.
Ahijah, being informed by the Lord of the plot, was not fooled, and the Lord spoke through him to Jehoboam's wife. The boy would die as soon as she returned home and Jehoboam's entire family would be swept from the earth because of his evil. Ahijah also prophesizes to the kings wife that the ten tribes would be destroyed, which was fulfilled by the Assyrians about two hundred years later. Jehoboam did eventually make war with Judah, in violation of Ahijah's prophecy, and he was thoroughly defeated. He reigned for twenty-one years and he unceremoniously died by the hand of the Lord.
The Bible is not a history book. Its history is only given when it pertains to the revelation of Jehovah. The revelations of these events are obvious. Rejecting God and pursuing pride, lust, false counselors, idols, power, greed, etc. means only loss and death. Shemaiah and Ahijah are faithful men of God while surrounded by apostasy and destruction and God uses them to His glory. No matter what happens around us or to us, faithfulness to following the Lord must always be our battle cry.
In the name of our faithful God and Savior,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries