Rebel Without a Cause?
Melakhim I 11 details both Shelomo's sins and the various adversaries that Hashem sent to oppose him. The last of these is Yerovam who is described as having "raised his hand against the king." The context of the verses suggests that Yerovam's revolt was a Divine punishment for Shelomo's taking of foreign wives, but the text does not explicitly reveal the human forces responsible for the rebellion. Considering that Shelomo's reign was marked by peace and prosperity, what provoked Yerovam to oppose his king? Was he, like Hashem, really bothered by Shelomo's heathen marriages, or did he have more mundane issues with Shelomo's reign?
A Seemingly Irrelevant Tangent
The chapter introduces Yerovam's rebellion in verse 27:
(כז) וְזֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר הֵרִים יָד בַּמֶּלֶךְ שְׁלֹמֹה בָּנָה אֶת הַמִּלּוֹא סָגַר אֶת פֶּרֶץ עִיר דָּוִד אָבִיו. (כח) וְהָאִישׁ יָרׇבְעָם גִּבּוֹר חָיִל וַיַּרְא שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת הַנַּעַר כִּי עֹשֵׂה מְלָאכָה הוּא וַיַּפְקֵד אֹתוֹ לְכׇל סֵבֶל בֵּית יוֹסֵף.
(27) And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king: Solomon built Millo, and repaired the breach of the city of David his father. (28) And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour; and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the labour of the house of Joseph.
The passage is perplexing. The opening words "וְזֶה הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר הֵרִים יָד בַּמֶּלֶךְ" suggest that they are about to introduce the details of the revolt, yet the verses continue with two seemingly unrelated topics: Shelomo's building projects and Yerovam's promotion to the position of tax supervisor. Of what relevance are these facts to the rebellion? Did they occur before, during, or after it? Do they constitute the grievances or circumstances which led to the rebellion, describe the revolt itself, relate its consequences, or are they a totally unrelated tangent?
The verses raise several other questions which might shed light on the above:
- "שְׁלֹמֹה בָּנָה אֶת הַמִּלּוֹא" – What was the Milo, and was its construction a positive or negative act?
- "סָגַר אֶת פֶּרֶץ עִיר דָּוִד" – Why had David left breaches in the City of David? How was Shelomo's closing of them viewed?
- Achiyah's prophecy – What role did Achiyah's prophecy play in the rebellion? The text shares that he spoke with Yerovam "בָּעֵת הַהִיא". To what point in time does this term refer? Was the prophecy given before Yerovam "raised his hand" against the king, perhaps goading Yerovam into action? Or, was it given after Yerovam's initial resistance, perhaps as a reward or confirmation of the justice of his cause?
- "וַיְבַקֵּשׁ שְׁלֹמֹה לְהָמִית אֶת יָרׇבְעָם" – We are told that Shelomo wanted to kill Yerovam only after we read of Achiyah's prophecy. Was Shelomo aware of and influenced by Achiyah's words, or would he have tried to silence Yerovam regardless?
- Connection to Chapter 12 – What is the relationship between Yerovam's rebellion in our chapter and the people's rejection of Rechavam in Melakhim I 12? The nation's rebellion is clearly a reaction to the king's taxation policies; do these policies play a role in Yerovam's earlier uprising as well?