The following article is reprinted with permission from
Ancient Israel: From Abraham to the Roman Destruction of the Temple
, edited by Hershel Shanks (Biblical Archaeology Society).
Solomon’s Successor: Rehobaom
When Solomon died, his son Rehoboam (c. 930-913 B.C.E.) succeeded him as king of Judah, apparently without incident (1 Kings 11:42). Rehoboam then traveled north to Shechem to lay his claim to the throne of Israel as well.
The account of the ensuing negotiations preserved in I Kings 12 suggests that the leaders of the northern tribes were prepared to accept Rehoboam’s rule, as long as the new king mitigated the harsh labor policies of his father.
Historians assume that part of their concern was the tax burden required to support Solomon’s building projects and to maintain his palace, as detailed in the description of revenue collection in the administrative districts he established (1 Kings 4:7-28), but the only grievances expressed in the account of the Shechem party are “the hard service of your father and the heavy yoke he placed on us” (1 Kings 12:4). According to 1 Kings 9:15-23, Solomon imposed corvee, or conscript labor, only on the foreign, non-Israelite population, while the Israelites involved in his work projects served as overseers and officers (1 Kings 12:22-23).
Map courtesy of Richardprins.
Nevertheless, the language of the northern leaders’ complaint indicates that they felt enslaved by Solomon’s labor policies, and it is noteworthy that when the secession movement found a leader, he was a dissident officer in Solomon’s force and a fugitive from the king’ justice.
Solomon’s Other Successor: Jeroboam
As a young man from Zeredah (a town west of Shiloh in the Ephraimite highlands), Jeroboam, son of Nebat, had come to Solomon’s attention because of his administrative skills and energy. Solomon placed him in charge of the corvee labor of the House of Joseph–that is, the conscript labor battalions of the territories of the half-tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh (1 Kings 11:26-28).