1 Kings 12:26-32; 13: 33-34
Jeroboam is the first king of the Kingdom of Israel when the northern tribes revolted from Solomon’s son. Splitting the kingdom and setting up a new civil government was the easy part, but how to deal with the worship of Yahweh. For the people of the new kingdom of Israel it didn’t make sense to continue to go to Jerusalem to worship. It might even be dangerous politically. Being a practical ruler Jeroboam hit upon the idea to set up two places of worship within his own kingdom.
The ancient sanctuary city of Bethel (House of God) and Dan were chosen. Golden calves marked the new sites. New priests had to be appointed to direct the liturgies and perform the animal sacrifices. Harvest feast days and other festivals were re-established. The people would continue to worship the God who had rescued them from Egypt, gave them the Ten Commandments and the Covenant, and brought them into the Promised Land. But it would not last.
In the 8th century the mighty Assyrians would destroy Israel and deport the inhabitants. None ever returned. That was the price of standing up to the Assyrians. That’s the conclusion of historians. The inspired writer of 1st Kings is also looking back and is seeing something different. He is seeing God’s judgment on sin. The sin he sees is unfaithfulness to God.
Fr. Michael Hoolahan, C.P. is on the staff of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.