|Judah's Septere and Joseph's Birthright
Chapter 4 - The Birthright or the Promise of Many Nations to Abraham
Jacob's Seed Divided Into Two Kingdoms When Boaz took Ruth the Moabitess for a wife, the people who were assembled prayed for her, saying:
"The Lord make thee like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel." (Ruth 4:11)
The fact that these two women, as the wives of Jacob, were the builders of the house of Israel, would of necessity divide the immediate household of Jacob into two families. Hence the pertinency of the question:
"Considerest thou not the two families which the Lord hath chosen?" (Jeremiah 33:24).
Since the covenant promise of the Birthright was given to one of these two families, and that of the Sceptre to the other, it would be but natural — especially since one of these forthcoming blessings was to be so much superior to the other — for these families to keep somewhat apart, so as to keep their family distinctions intact. This they did, and yet they dwelt together for a number of centuries, apparently without any factions whatever.
Together, as one nation, they lived on in Goshen. Together the Sceptre and the Birthright families are pressed into bondage. Together the children of Rachel, of whom it was prophesied that there should be thousands of millions, and the children of Leah, the mother of coming royalty — royalty which, as the sequel proves, is not only the grandest and best that this world will ever know, but also the most glorious that will ever be known in all the universe of God — together they bend their necks to the yoke, and their backs to the burdens. Together they serve those unjust taskmasters. Together their Lord, whose presence was with them, brought them out of that galling Egyptian servitude, out through the Red Sea, and into the wilderness. There, still together, they refreshed their spirits by drinking from that spiritual Rock which followed them; and there they refreshed their bodies with drink from that literal rock which, as we shall prove, they carried with them. Together they ate the same spiritual and temporal meat, albeit, at times, that temporal meat was angels' food which God sent down from one of their habitations.
Together they crossed the Jordan, marched around Jericho, drove out the Canaanites, and — for a season only — inhabited that promised land; in which they enjoyed the blessings and privileges of a theocratic government. But it is recorded that they lightly esteemed the Rock of their salvation, cried down the theocracy, and shouted over a monarchy. Refusing Him who had honored, protected and cherished them as a husband doth a wife, despising that Divine One who had followed them and led them, and nourished them, and fought for them, they demanded that like the nations around them, a man should be their king.
Then it was that there arose trouble, trouble which resulted in strifes and factions galore; for after the establishment of the monarchy only three kings — namely: Saul, David and Solomon — reigned over all Israel in one united kingdom.
After the death of Solomon, contingencies arose in Israel, which brought the two families that held the covenant blessings face to face with issues that resulted in a division of the nation, which placed both the families of Rachel and Leah, or more properly, Judah and Joseph, since they are the promise-holders — into positions to fulfill their God-appointed destinies. And yet we shall find that the mills of God do grind, oh so very slowly.
There is contained in the eleventh and twelfth chapters of the book of First Kings a record of the division of the tribes of Israel into two kingdoms, with a son of the royal family as king over one kingdom, and a son of the house of Joseph as king over the other and larger kingdom.
King Solomon had married strange wives, and because of them he had burnt incense, and sacrificed unto Moloch and other idols; and because of this,
"The Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding, in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father's sake; but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake which I have chosen," (1Kings 11:11-13).
The twenty-sixth verse of the same chapter speaks of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite, Solomon's servant. It is known that the word Ephrathite means Ephraimite. The record further states,
"And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valor: and Solomon seeing the young man that he was industrious, he made him ruler over all the charge of the house of Joseph," (1Kings 11:28).
When the Birthright was transferred to the sons of Joseph, Ephraim, the younger, was set before Manasseh, the elder, and, aside from the fact of joint inheritance in the multitude of posterity, Ephraim seems to enjoy the special Birthright, or firstborn distinctions. This is shown in several ways; but at present we will only call your attention to the fact that God says:
"I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my first-born," (Jeremiah 31:9).
We have in this man Jeroboam, a servant of Solomon's, an Ephraimite, who was ruler over all the Birthright family. God had told Solomon, that after his death he would give the kingdom to his servant, but, "not all." In harmony with these things we read:
"And it came to pass that at the time when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah, the Shilonite, found him in the way; and he had clad himself with a new garment; and the two were alone in the field. And Ahijah caught the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee....
"Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand:...for David my servant's sake, whom I chose —because he kept my commandments and my statutes. But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and thou shalt be king over Israel." (1Kings 11:29-31, 34-37)
In this prophecy, there is made a promise to a son of the house of Joseph, that he shall reign over ten tribes, and be king over Israel. Hence if Jeroboam ever received his promised kingdom, it must have been formed by a confederacy of ten of the tribes of Israel, and that ten-tribed kingdom or confederation must needs be called "ISRAEL," or the prophecy fails.
After this prophecy, which God gave to Ahijah to deliver to Jeroboam, was made public, Solomon became so jealous for himself and posterity that he undertook to kill Jeroboam; while he, in order to escape the wrath of Solomon, fled to Egypt and remained there until after the death of Solomon. At the death of Solomon the royal succession fell to his son, Rehoboam, who, at the time of his accession, had gathered with all Israel at Shechem, the place where, for reasons which will be given later, Israel crowned her sovereigns. But difficulties arose. The people had grievances which they wanted adjusted, before they were willing to submit to the rule of this young sovereign. Solomon had laid upon them an enormous tax for the building and furnishing of the temple and royal palaces. These were finished and furnished, but the taxes were not abated. Also there was this taxation without representation by any in Israel, except from the royal tribe of Judah. Still, in spite of the fact that a spirit of rebellion had possession of them because of these facts, they were willing to hold a consultation with Rehoboam, in hope that their condition might be bettered and amity might still prevail. So they made Jeroboam their spokesman, and directed him to say to the young king;
"Thy father made our yoke grievous; now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee." (1Kings 12:4; 2Chronicles 10:4)
His reply to this request was, "Depart yet for three days, then come again to me." (1Kings 12:5; 2Chronicles 10:5). During this three days of grace, which he had asked, and they had granted, Rehoboam first consulted with the old men, asking them how they would advise him to answer the people. They gave him wholesome counsel, saying to him that if he would "Speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever." (v. 7 in both books)
Then he consulted with the young men, with whom he had grown up, asking them how they would advise him. But their advice was hasty and hot-headed. They said,
"Thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. And now, whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions." (v. 10-11 in both books).
When the three days had expired, Jeroboam and the people came again to King Rehoboam, as he had appointed, to receive the answer to their request. Then Rehoboam answered them roughly, forsaking the counsel of the old men, and adhering to the counsel which the young men in their pride and egotism had given, using their very words.
"Whips" and "scorpions!' How insulting! Surely in all the figures of speech there could not have been chosen any so hard for that "elect" people to swallow. But they did not swallow them; they rebelled. The command to the people was, "To your tents, O Israel!" (v. 16 in both books). The challenge to the royal house was, "Now, see to thy own house!"
Rehoboam's next move was to send Adoram, who had charge of the tribute, to collect the taxes then due. But instead of paying their taxes, the people stoned the man to death; and as soon as Rehoboam heard this, he fled in his chariot, and with all speed, to Jerusalem.
Then comes the following:
"So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation and made him king over all Israel...And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and four score thousand men which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon.
"But the word of God came unto Shemaniah the man of God, saying, Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel return every man to his house; for this thing is from me." i.e., the division, (1Kings 12:19-24)
Well may the Lord say, "This thing is from me." In the division of that race into two kingdoms, he has fulfilled his word to Solomon concerning the rending of the kingdom out of the hand of his son, and giving it to his servant. Yet, in doing so, he remembered not only his oath to David, but also his word to Solomon, in that he did not rend away all the kingdom; for there was one tribe, that of Benjamin, left with the royal tribe.
Also the prophecy of Ahijah to Jeroboam was fulfilled, for he became king of the ten-tribed kingdom, which, by Divine appointment, retained the national name of Israel, while that of Judah was given to the other kingdom. Thus the titles "House of Israel," and the "House of Judah" are used to designate the two kingdoms, as they stand separated and in opposition to each other.
Moreover, since the Birthright tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, went with the ten-tribed kingdom, and a scion of the house of Joseph, to whom pertains the Birthright, was king over that kingdom, and a son of the royal house of Judah, to whom pertains the Sceptre, was king over the other kingdom, which bears the name of the inheritor of the Sceptre, then, surely, the Sceptre and the Birthright were separated then and there. They were not only separated, but each became a nucleus around which either the one or the other, of all the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, did gather. Thus the SCEPTRE and the BIRTHRIGHT families each became the head and representative of a distinct nation, or commonwealth. Each was then free to go forward, independent of the other, and fulfill its God-appointed destiny; one to fulfill the first covenant which the Lord made with their father Abraham, that of becoming many nations, and the other to fulfill the second covenant of bringing forth the Messiah.
The first thing recorded of Jeroboam, as king of Israel, is that he built the city of Shechem, in Mount Ephraim, and dwelt there. This city was the first capital of that kingdom. From there the king of Israel went out and built the city of Penuel, and seemed to prosper for a short season. But Jeroboam fell to thinking that, if his subjects were allowed to continue going to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the Lord, their hearts would turn again to Rehoboam, whose capital city it was, and they would then kill him, and go again to the kingdom of Judah.
Therefore he made two calves of gold, and said unto the people,
"It is too much [trouble] for you to go to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set one in Bethel, and one in Dan. And this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one [in Bethel], and even unto Dan. And he made a house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.
"And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel, on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised in his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the Children of Israel, and he offered upon the altar and burnt incense," (1Kings 12:28-33)
This was the great sin which was such a curse to the people. But we want you to note just how the Lord speaks of it. After the prophet whom he had sent out of Judah had proclaimed the doom of Jeroboam, he further adds:
"The Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he shall root up Israel out of his good land, which he gave to their fathers, and shall scatter them beyond the river, because they have made their groves, provoking the Lord to anger. And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, who did sin, and who made Israel to sin," (1Kings 14:15, 16).
Dear reader, please note that it was Israel, and not Judah, over which Jeroboam reigned; that it was Israel, and not Judah, whom he caused to sin; that it was Israel the ten-tribed kingdom, and not Judah, the royal kingdom, that worshiped those two golden calves which Jeroboam the king of Israel had set up in his own territory, and not in the land of Judah; that it was Israel whom the Lord declared he would give up, root out of that land, and scatter beyond the river, because of this thing. For the people of the kingdom of Judah never did worship those golden calves; neither did they worship at Bethel, nor in Dan: they worshiped in Jerusalem. Later, the royal kingdom did go into idolatry; but it was Baalism, and not this special form of idolatry which had its origin in Jeroboam, for this was confined alone to Israel.
We find that the history of the two kingdoms is intermingled throughout the books of First and Second Kings, but never confounded. So that, with a little care and thoughtfulness on our part, there need be no confusion. For instance, it is recorded that,
"The days which Jeroboam reigned were two-and-twenty years, and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab, his son, reigned in his stead," (1Kings 14:20).
But the very next verse tells us that,
"Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, reigned in Judah. Reboboam was forty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem."
The two reigns began simultaneously. If Jeroboam's reign lasted for twenty-two years, and Rehoboam's only for seventeen years, then it must needs be that some other king or kings reigned for five years contemporaneously with Jeroboam, unless the kingdom of Judah had collapsed; but it had not. So the record declares,
"Now, in the eighteenth year of Jeroboam, the son of Nabat, reigned Abijah over Judah. Three years reigned he in Jerusalem," (1Kings 15:1). .
Seventeen years for Rehoboam and three for Abijah, are only twenty of Jeroboam's twenty-two years. So if the record be correct, we shall expect it to tell who ascended the throne of Judah in the twentieth year of Jeroboam's reign. This it does do, as follows:
"And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam, king of Israel, reigned Asa over Judah," (1Kings 15:9)
Now, if Asa lived and reigned more than two years, he lived to see the death of Jeroboam and the elevation of his successor. Hence, the record continues:
"And Nadab, the son of Jeroboam, began to reign over Israel in the second year of Asa, king of Judah, and reigned over Israel two years. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of his father, and in the sin wherewith he made Israel to sin." (v. 25-26)
Then follows a record of the fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the doom of Jeroboam, viz., the entire destruction of his family, at the hand of Baasha, of the house of Issachar, who reigned instead of Nadab son of Jeroboam. Hence it is recorded that:
"In the third year of Asa, king of Judah, began Baasha, the son of Ahijah, to reign over all Israel in Tirzah, twenty-and-four years. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, and walked in the ways of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin," (1Kings 15:33, 34).
We have brought you down to the contemporaneous reigns of Asa, the third king in Judah, and Baasha, the third king in Israel, not only to show that there need be no confusion in this intermingled history, but also for another purpose, which follows. You will notice that in the last quotation, the expression "all Israel" occurs, while in the twenty-second verse is the corresponding expression "all Judah." "Then King Asa made a proclamation throughout all Judah. " These expressions, all Israel and all Judah, are undoubtedly used as contradistinctive titles of the two kingdoms into which the people were divided.
The expression "all Israel," as used in the above quotation, and with the same meaning in many other places in the Scriptures, has confused many students. They seem to think it means, or ought to mean, all the people who are the descendants of Israel, i.e., all Israelites; whereas it simply means, in this instance, and many others, all the country occupied by the ten tribes which formed the kingdom of Israel, just as the expression "all Judah," or "all Judea" — the Greek form of the same term — is used to designate all of the country which was given to the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, they being the tribes which composed the kingdom of Judah. Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, was located in that portion allotted to Benjamin, and Judah's portion was the hill country south of Jerusalem.