Ten Tribes Vs. One Tribe


Who is Missing?

After Shelomo sins, he is told that Hashem will tear the kingdom away from him, leaving him only one tribe "for the sake of David and Yerushalayim".  Soon after, when Yerovam begins to rebel, the prophet Achiyah relays to him the same message (Melakhim I 11):


(כט) וַיְהִי בָּעֵת הַהִיא וְיָרׇבְעָם יָצָא מִירוּשָׁלָ‍ִם וַיִּמְצָא אֹתוֹ אֲחִיָּה הַשִּׁילֹנִי הַנָּבִיא בַּדֶּרֶךְ וְהוּא מִתְכַּסֶּה בְּשַׂלְמָה חֲדָשָׁה וּשְׁנֵיהֶם לְבַדָּם בַּשָּׂדֶה. (ל) וַיִּתְפֹּשׂ אֲחִיָּה בַּשַּׂלְמָה הַחֲדָשָׁה אֲשֶׁר עָלָיו וַיִּקְרָעֶהָ שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר קְרָעִים. (לא) וַיֹּאמֶר לְיָרׇבְעָם קַח לְךָ עֲשָׂרָה קְרָעִים כִּי כֹה אָמַר י"י אֱלֹהֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הִנְנִי קֹרֵעַ אֶת הַמַּמְלָכָה מִיַּד שְׁלֹמֹה וְנָתַתִּי לְךָ אֵת עֲשָׂרָה הַשְּׁבָטִים. (לב) וְהַשֵּׁבֶט הָאֶחָד יִהְיֶה לּוֹ לְמַעַן עַבְדִּי דָוִד וּלְמַעַן יְרוּשָׁלַ‍ִם הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר בָּחַרְתִּי בָהּ מִכֹּל שִׁבְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל.

(29) And it came to pass at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; now Ahijahhad clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field. (30) And Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces. (31) 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— (32) but he shall have one tribe, for My servant David's sake, and for Jerusalem's sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel—

Achiyah tears his cloak into twelve pieces, symbolic of the twelve tribes. He gives Yerovam ten strips, representing the ten tribes over whom he will rule, and declares that one tribe will remain for Shelomo's descendants due to the merits of David. The metaphor is clear, except that the numbers do not add up.1 Given that there are twelve tribes, if Shelomo's line gets one and Yerovam gets ten, who receives the twelfth?  Which tribe is missing, and why is it not mentioned? 

Prophecy Fulfilled

Soon after Shelomo's son, Rechavam, begins his reign, his taxation policies prompt rebellion and lead to the fulfillment of Achiyah's prophecy (Melakhim I 12):


(יט) וַיִּפְשְׁעוּ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּבֵית דָּוִד עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה. (כ) וַיְהִי כִּשְׁמֹעַ כׇּל יִשְׂרָאֵל כִּי שָׁב יָרׇבְעָם וַיִּשְׁלְחוּ וַיִּקְרְאוּ אֹתוֹ אֶל הָעֵדָה וַיַּמְלִיכוּ אֹתוֹ עַל כׇּל יִשְׂרָאֵל לֹא הָיָה אַחֲרֵי בֵית דָּוִד זוּלָתִי שֵׁבֶט יְהוּדָה לְבַדּוֹ. (כא) [וַיָּבֹא] (ויבאו) רְחַבְעָם יְרוּשָׁלַ‍ִם וַיַּקְהֵל אֶת כׇּל בֵּית יְהוּדָה וְאֶת שֵׁבֶט בִּנְיָמִן מֵאָה וּשְׁמֹנִים אֶלֶף בָּחוּר עֹשֵׂה מִלְחָמָה לְהִלָּחֵם עִם בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל לְהָשִׁיב אֶת הַמְּלוּכָה לִרְחַבְעָם בֶּן שְׁלֹמֹה.

(19) So Israel rebelled against the house of David, unto this day. (20) And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was returned, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel; there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. (21) And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, and the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men that were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom back to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.

The people appoint Yerovam as king, and we are told that no one followed the house of David "except the tribe of Yehuda alone", exactly as prophesied.  However, in the very next verse, we read that Rechavam gathered not only Yehuda, but also Binyamin, to fight against the rest of Israel.  Does this suggest that they, too, were loyal to Rechavam from the very beginning?  But, if so, why are they not mentioned in verse 20?  Moreover, why would Binyamin, of all tribes, side with their former foe, Yehuda, rather than with their relative Yerovam, a fellow descendant of Rachel?

Additional Issues

  • "לְמַעַן יְרוּשָׁלַ‍ִם" – What does Hashem mean when He states that He will leave David one tribe "for the sake of Yerushalayim"?  Is Hashem implying that Yerushalayim was to be left to the Davidic Dynasty? Considering that Yerushalayim was uniquely situated in both the territories of Yehuda and Binyamin, would that not necessitate granting Rechavam, not one, but two tribes?
  • "וַיְהִי נַחֲלָתָם בְּתוֹךְ נַחֲלַת בְּנֵי יְהוּדָה" – Yehoshua 19:9 teaches that Shimon inherited in the South, within the territory of the tribe of Yehuda. As such, from a geographic perspective, they were part of the southern Kingdom.  To whom, though did their allegiance lie?  Were they one of the "ten tribes" given to Yerovam, but nonetheless living in the midst of enemy territory?  How could that have worked?