Jeroboam builds temples to worship Baal

1 Kings 12:25-33   King Jeroboam I of Israel (reigning from c.931 to c.911BC) fortifies Shechem to provide himself with a stronghold in the hill country of Ephraim. He also fortifies Penuel, a town across the Jordan near the River Jabbok (see Map 58). Jeroboam turns away from the LORD and makes golden bull calves for the people to worship Baal in new temples in Bethel and Dan so they will not need to travel to Jerusalem (in the southern rival kingdom of Judah) to worship there.

 

Jabbok River (Dr. Meierhofer)

The River Jabbok near the site of Penuel   (Dr.Meierhofer)

 

1 Kings 13:1-34   A prophet from Judah is sent by the LORD to the new pagan temple at Bethel and warns Jeroboam that a future king of Judah (King Josiah) will destroy his altar to Baal (see 2 Kings 23).

1 Kings 14:1-20   Ahijah, the prophet from Shiloh, prophesies that God will bring disaster on Jeroboam’s household because he has worshipped idols, and the people of Israel will be uprooted and scattered beyond ‘the river’ (the River Euphrates) for worshipping foreign gods. Jeroboam’s son Abijah falls ill and dies. When Jeroboam dies in c.911BC, he is succeeded by another son, Nadab, who reigns briefly from c.911 to c.910BC.

1 Kings 14:21-31   Meanwhile, King Rehoboam of Judah (who reigns from c.931 to c.914BC) also turns away from the LORD and worships foreign gods. Altars to Baal and Asherah are set up on the high places, and sacred ‘Asherah poles’ (fertility symbols representing fruit-laden branches) are erected under the shade of large trees.

In c.927BC, Jerusalem (the capital of Judah) is attacked and sacked by Israel’s ally Pharaoh Ramesses II of Egypt (referred to, in Hebrew, as 'Shyshak', meaning ‘the plunderer’, or 'Shishak' in English). The temple treasures and all the wealth of the royal palace of Judah are carried off to Egypt.

 

Image of Ramesses II at Karnak Temple

Image of Pharoah Ramesses II at Karnak Temple

 

Pharaoh Shishak

Although the Bible tells us that Pharaoh ‘Shishak’ plundered Jerusalem and carried away the temple treasures (see 1 Kings 14:25-26), there is no record of a Pharaoh called 'Shishak' in the numerous clay tablets and stone inscriptions that record the names of the kings of ancient Egypt.

In the early nineteenth century, great emphasis was placed on identifying the Egyptian Pharaoh ‘Shishak’ in order to date the dynasties of Egyptian pharoahs ruling during the reigns of King Rehoboam of Judah and his father, King Solomon of Israel. As the two names sounded similar, ‘Shishak’ was identified by the great Egyptologist Jean François Champollion as Pharaoh Shoshenk I. The traditional system of dating Egyptian pharaohs and events during the United Monarchy and the Divided Monarchy was based largely on this identification.

However, more recent examination of the campaign city list (adjacent to the Bubastite Portal on the southern outer wall of the Hypostyle Hall at Karnak Temple) which records Pharaoh Shoshenk I’s military incursion into Palestine shows that he campaigned largely in northern Israel, and did not plunder Jerusalem.

 

Pharoah Shoshenk's Victory List at Karnak

Pharaoh Shoshenk I's 'victory list' is inscribed on this wall at Karnak Temple

 

The Pharaoh who is responsible for plundering ‘Shalem’ (or Salem - the old name for Jerusalem – see Genesis 14:18) is Ramesses II. A stone inscription on the north pylon of the monumental gateway at the Ramesseum, Ramesses’ mortuary temple at Thebes, reads, “The town which the king plundered in Year 8 – Shalem”.

Although the name ‘Ramesses’ doesn't sound anything like ‘Shishak’, Ramesses was, in fact, widely known by a nickname – the ‘hypocorism’ or shortened form of his name – ‘SS’ or ‘SySa’, translated into Hebrew as ‘Shysha’ or ‘Shyshak’, meaning ‘the plunderer’, and written in English as ‘Shishak’).

The correct identification of Pharaoh ‘Shishak’ as Ramesses II means that the United Monarchy of Israel (and the subsequent Divided Monarchy) took place during the reign of pharaohs who ruled some 250 years earlier than those identified in the traditional chronology used since Victorian times. The Bible Journey adopts this more rigorous dating system determined in recent years by archaeologist David Rohl (see the section on Dating events in the Old Testament).

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