Story 7 of 12: THE DIVIDED KINGDOM
When David's son Solomon became the next king, God granted him a request. Instead of wealth and power, Solomon asked for the wisdom to guide God's people. God was pleased and granted him not only wisdom, but power and fame as well. Solomon built a temple in the capitol, giving the ark of the covenant a proper resting place, centralizing worship for all of Israel. God reminded Solomon that it was obedience to the covenant, though, not the temple itself, that won His favor.
In fact, Solomon would eventually become so preoccupied with his riches and the temple that he began taxing the people too heavily for its upkeep. To make matters worse, in his older years, he took on many foreign wives, and began having temples built for their own gods as well! God informed him through the prophet Ahijah that because of this the kingdom of Israel would be split in two.
As promised, it came to pass. Of the 12 tribes, the 2 southernmost tribes (Judah and Benjamin) together began to be called Judah and kept the the capital city of Jerusalem with the temple of Solomon, while the 10 tribes to the north kept the name Israel and made the city of Samaria their own capital.
Kingly practices in both halves got bad when Jeroboam, the new king in the north, and Rehoboam, the new king in the south, began mixing the worship of God with the worship of the other gods, using golden calves, sacred poles, and male prostitutes in their practices. God's prophets in the north and south continually warned the kings that this would spell certain doom to both kingdoms.
After Rehoboam and Jeroboam, there followed a succession of kings in the north and the south, some good, like King Asa of Judah, but mostly bad, like King Ahab of Israel. Ahab and his infamous foreign wife Jezebel killed many of God’s prophets, consulting their own “brotherhood of prophets”, while mixing the worship of Yahweh with false gods like Baal and Asherah.
In the midst of the craziness came the faithful prophet Elijah, who once felt the awesome presence of God not in a great storm or fire or earthquake, but in the gentle, quiet breeze. He performed miracles like multiplying food and drink, and resuscitating the son of a poor old widow. At the mountain of Carmel, he demonstrated to King Ahab, to the brotherhood of (false) prophets, and to all of Israel that Yahweh was the one true God by calling to ignite a sacrificial bull dedicated to him. In an effort to match this, the false prophets called on their false gods to burn their own sacrifices, and their gods were silent. Elijah then had the false prophets seized and slaughtered. Jezebel came after Elijah, but Elijah escaped and later appointed the prophet Elisha to succeed him.
Any time Israel or Judah's kings displeased Yahweh, the books of Kings and Chronicles would remind us that they were nothing like the king that ruled the undivided Israel, the greatest of all kings...King David!
Solomon, king of Israel
- sought after for his wisdom
In one famous case brought to Solomon, two women were claiming to be the mother of the same baby. Solomon ordered the baby to be cut in two, with one half going to each woman. When the first woman "submitted" to the king's demand while the second woman pleaded to just let the first woman keep the whole baby, Solomon knew that the second woman was the true mother of the child and gave him to her.
The building of the temple of Solomon was significant in that the ark of the covenant no longer had to travel in a tent as it did in the days of the desert, nor did it have to be moved around during the fighting for Canaan.
But with the division of the kingdoms, worship became decentralized, and the unity of the people was lost, and the mixing in of false gods would continue in the worship of Yahweh.
In what ways was the temple significant?
That being said, what was the role of the temple regarding God's favor, according to God himself?