altar built by Jeroboam

“The king took counsel and made two golden calves, and he said to them, saying, “It is far for you to go up to Jerusalem; here are your gods, O Israel, that have brought you up from the land of Egypt. And he placed one in Beth El and the other he placed in Dan. And this thing became a sin, and the people went before the one even until Dan.” (1 Kings 12-30)

By Nosson Shulman

We saw in Part 1 how the tribe of Dan conquered the biblical city of Laish and quickly renamed it after their forebearer. They swiftly erected a graven image-focused Temple with a priest from the Levite tribe as its guardian. This quickly turned the city into a major center of idol worship, although by the time of the Judean Monarchy of David and Solomon, idol worship largely ceased to exist here.

After King Solomon’s death, the city experienced significant growth. The tax policy of King Rehoboam (Solomon’s son and successor) caused his empire to be divided in two.

Rehoboam continued to hold onto the southern Kingdom of Judah, (including Jerusalem) while the majority of the nation (all except the tribes of Benjamin and Judah) split into the northern kingdom of Israel with Jeroboam as its King. Although Jeroboam was initially very righteous, (Jewish sources point out that G-d would not have chosen him to be King over the ten tribes if he wasn’t) his newfound power quickly got to his head, and he made some catastrophic decisions.

When the Temple stands, Jews are required to visit Jerusalem at least three times a year (for Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). Jeroboam was concerned that when his subjects—all of whom were Jewish—went to Jerusalem, their hearts would turn to the king of Judah. He thought that they would start to perceive him as a minor king, and ultimately topple him.

As a result, he made the decision to establish two new temples, one in Beit El and the other in Dan, both of which included golden calf statues (1 Kings 12:28–29). He even made up his own holidays and declared himself a priest, burning incense to the calves in Beit El. Dan became the most important city in the North (1 Kings 12:30). His misguided fears led to the spiritual destruction of the Kingdom of Israel.

Besides the Temple, he also built an altar (see 1 Kings 12: 32). All of this, according to Jewish sources, is the reason the northern Kingdom was exiled 133 years earlier than the more righteous southern kingdom of Judah. In the end, his descendants continued in his wicked ways and were eradicated from the face of the earth (1 Kings 13:33-34) with Jeroboam having no portion in the World to Come.

The city would reach its peak with numerous building projects under the infamous King Ahab, the remnants of which can be seen everywhere here. It is from this time period that arguably the greatest biblical archaeological find in history was unearthed at this location!

-To Be Continued…

Nosson Shulman is a journalist and Licensed Tour Guide in Israel specializing in Biblical tours. To allow tourists to experience Israel during the Corona era, he created the new hit Israel tour video series, which brings Israel to the home of viewers by simulating actual tours. To check out his free sneak preview tour videos, click here. To view sample tour itineraries or to inquire about private tour opportunities with a personalized itinerary on your next trip to Israel, click here.