When Jeroboam leaves Jerusalem he met the prophet Ahijah:

And at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him on the road. Now Ahijah had dressed himself in a new garment, and the two of them were alone in the open country. Then Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and tore it into twelve pieces. And he said to Jeroboam, “Take for yourself ten pieces, for thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Behold, I am about to tear the kingdom from the hand of Solomon and will give you ten tribes (but he shall have one tribe, for the sake of my servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, the city that I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel)
(1 Kings 11:29-32 ESV)

Ahijah tears "his" robe into 12 pieces giving 10 to Jeroboam apparently as a symbolic action showing how the LORD will make Jeroboam king over 10 of the tribes of Israel. He also says one tribe will remain under the rule of the House David.

What did he do with the 12th piece and how should the symbolic act of tearing the robe into 12 pieces but only specifying the rule for 11 pieces be interpreted?

  • It's not entirely clear just whose robe it was, either Ahijah's or Jeroboam's; thus the question appears to take for granted that it was Ahijah's. Personally I would conjecture that it was Jeroboam's, but that's my opinion.
    – user21676
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 19:50
  • @user40520 Good point. I assumed it was Ahijah's robe but you may be correct. Modified the question to include the issue of whose robe was torn. Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 20:05
  • I would think that the 12th tribe is that of Levi. They didn't receive an inheritance; their inheritance was the LORD. To me, they are a shadow of the church. Today, We are in the world, but not of the world. And no one ruled over the Levitical priesthood (tribe), but they served all the "11" tribes.
    – Ron
    Commented May 13, 2023 at 20:27

8 Answers 8


Solomon retained Judah (Jerusalem is the capital of Judah) and was given the one tribe of Benjamin; Rehoboam received the other 10 tribes.

[[ ]] are mine because different names make more sense - to me, anyway.


Benjamin a Light to Judah

What tribe was David or Judah to have? That is going to be Benjamin. One tribe would go to Judah

“Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand [out of Rehoboam’s hand][[Solomon's hand]]: but I will make him prince all the days of his life for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he [David] kept my commandments and my statutes: But I will take the kingdom out of his [[David's]] son’s [[Solomon's]] hand, and will give it unto you, even ten tribes. And unto his [[David's]] son [[Solomon]] will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.” 1 Kings 11:34–36

The one tribe to be given to Judah was Benjamin. So God was in this. God was going to give Benjamin to the tribe of Judah.

“And I will take you [Jeroboam], and you shall reign according to all that your soul desires, and shall be king over Israel. And it shall be, if you will hearken unto all that I command you, and will walk in my ways [which Jeroboam did not], and do that is right in my sight, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with you, and build you a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto you. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not for ever [not all the days]. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam [Solomon heard about this]. And Jeroboam arose, and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.” 1 Kings 11:37–40

The prophecy said that Jeroboam was to rule 10 of the tribes. The one tribe that was to go with David was the tribe of Benjamin. Notice that back in verse 36, the tribe of Benjamin was to be “a light always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to put my name there.” Does this mean that the tribe of Benjamin was to be the light to the House of David? That the tribe of Benjamin had some good characteristics about it that would help David continually, help the Jews, and be a light for them and to them? That is a possibility.

In the time of Jehoshaphat years later we read about this light still being in Jerusalem. Perhaps this light was the tribe of Benjamin. It seems to read that way.

“And in the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab king of Israel, Jehoshaphat being then king of Judah, … he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: … and he did evil in the sight of YHWH. Yet YHWH would not destroy Judah for David his servant’s sake, as he promised him to give him alway a light, and to his children.” 2 Kings 8:16–19

  • 1
    I do not find 1 Kings 11:36 says "a light always before me" will be the tribe of Benjamin. In fact the reference you provide askelm.com/doctrine/d080801.htm about Benjamin would argue against Benjamin being a light, if light is taken as a positive attribute. Can you provide some support for the position Benjamin was the tribe? Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 16:39
  • Actually, Solomon ruled over the whole 12 tribes all his life. It was during his son Rehoboam's rule that the kingdom was split. Jeroboam ruled over the majority of the tribes, and Rehoboam ruled "Judah" (which also included Benjamin and at some stage at least some from Ephraim and Manasseh).
    – Lawrence
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 16:30

Given that the events of 1 Kings 12:23-24 occurred so closely to those of chapter eleven, that is to the admission of the inclusion of Benjamin with Judah over the other tribes, it seems most likely that the ten parts of ch.11 subtracted both of these, leaving the aforementioned 'one' as referencing principally the tribe of Judah, Benjamin being grouped then together with him in that rendering (though unmentioned explicitly). This is given the fact that Benjamin had for his inheritance the city of Jerusalem (Josh. 18:28).

Other possible schemes include Joseph in the ten parts. This can be done either by conflating Manasseh and Ephraim of the twelve parts to Joseph, or by including Joseph in the twelve along with Levi such as to retain Joseph in the ten, seem to necessarily include Benjamin to the ten (also by alternatively putting Manasseh and Ephraim in the ten and eliding Simeon from the ten - Josh. 19:1), which as I said above is not necessarily so evident in scripture (Psalms 68:27, Ezra 10:9, etc). It is suggested then that such should likewise be the interpretation of 2 Samuel 19:43.

  • Based on 1 Kings 12 and Joshua 18, I think you have made a good case for Benjamin. Additionally I would note Jeroboam put a idol in Bethel to prevent people from going to Jerusalem. So there is a geographical "grouping" which would include Benjamin. Two challenges to this approach: 1.The location of Simeon wholly within Judah's boundaries 2. The presence of the Levites in Judah and Jerusalem. Do you have any insight on Simeon or Levi? Commented Jun 4, 2018 at 16:53

The classical jewish commentators all point that during the time after living in Cnaan, Jehuda tribe got bigger than Benyamin and because they shared the same country side - it merged with it. We can find a biblical clue about Benyamin merge to Jehuda on Judges 19. Another approach saying that as written on Joshua chapter 16, and on Judges chapter 7 1-3 it was Shimon and Jehuda that merged even before occupation and living in Cnaan.

In my point of view we should remember that Kings books written on Jehuda kingdom so it can be explain how Jehuda is in focus and Ahija "original" words changed. Since this chapter probably written couple of hundrad years after things truely happened it seems pointless to say two tribes, after we told that the prophet split his dress to twelve.


Where is that missing tribe in 1 Kings 11?

35 But I will take the kingdom out of his son's hand, and will give it unto thee, even ten tribes. (There is 12 tribes in the Kingdom ruled by Solomon and 10 of those tribes were given to Jeroboam)

36 And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. (As tempted as I may be to assign the land of Benjamin to Judah, that would equal two tribes, but what does the scripture say? One tribe goes to Rohoboam.)

Math 101; 12-10=2 2-1=1

Verse 39 says "that David my servant may have a light alway before me in Jerusalem" suggesting that the city is in Judah, the tribe that Rehoboam will rule

So who and where is the 12th tribe? In some maps we see Simeon is in the midst of Judah, is Simeon that 12th tribe? In some maps Jerusalem is in Judah, but in other maps, Jerusalem in Benjamin, is Benjamin the 12th tribe?

When Ahijah tore that garment into 12 pieces, each piece represented a tribe. Ten pieces are called Israel, and one piece is called Judah.

Understand this: every word in the Bible is the inspired word of God. We are not to twist it. Peter warns against twisting scripture based upon the wisdom of man.

2 Peter 3:16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

So my conclusion is this: There is no mention of the 12th tribe, the 12th piece, in this chapter. If I were to guess, it may be either Simeon or Benjamin that was not given to them to rule, and I can't find an answer why in scripture. I will not pick and choose out of context verses to support an opinion. That would be twisting unto my own destruction.

  • 1
    Welcome to BHSX. Thanks for your answer. Please take the tour (link below) in order to better understand how this site works, Are you able to provide some references to support you answer - Hebrew does not have the same structures and western logic.
    – Dottard
    Commented Sep 6, 2020 at 22:16

2 Chronicles 11:1 "...Rehoboam mustered the house of Judah and Benjamin... to make war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam." Apparently, when the kingdom split, Benjamin stayed with Judah in following Rehoboam, while the other ten tribes split to follow Jeroboam. I think what happens is that the nation later known as Judah actually includes two tribes: Judah and Benjamin. The tribe of Judah is probably much larger within this kingdom, so Benjamin sort of gets "lost in the shuffle." The prophet's language in 1 Kings 11 is somewhat figurative, not literal, considering Judah a single "tribe" even though Benjamin went along with them.

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    – Dottard
    Commented Apr 5, 2021 at 23:10

1Ki 12:19-24 KJV 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 come again, 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, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. 22 But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, 24 Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.

2Ch 11:1-12 TS2009 1 And when Reḥaḇʽam came to Yerushalayim, he assembled from the house of Yehuḏah and Binyamin one hundred and eighty thousand chosen brave men to fight against Yisra’ĕl, to bring back the reign to Reḥaḇʽam. 2 But the word of יהוה came to Shemayahu the man of Elohim, saying, 3 “Speak to Reḥaḇʽam son of Shelomoh, sovereign of Yehuḏah, and to all Yisra’ĕl in Yehuḏah and Binyamin, saying, 4 Thus said יהוה, “Do not go up or fight against your brothers! Let every man return to his house, for this matter is from Me.” ’ ” So they obeyed the words of יהוה, and turned back from going against Yaroḇʽam. 5 And Reḥaḇʽam dwelt in Yerushalayim, and built cities for a defence in Yehuḏah. 6 And he built Bĕyth Leḥem, and Ěytam, and Teqowa, 7 and Bĕyth Tsur, and Soḵo, and Aḏullam, 8 and Gath, and Marĕshah, and Ziph, 9 and Aḏorayim, and Laḵish, and Azĕqah, 10 and Tsorʽah, and Ayalon, and Ḥeḇron, which are in Yehuḏah and Binyamin, cities of defence. 11 And he strengthened the strongholds, and put commanders in them, and stores of food, and oil, and wine, 12 and shields and spears in every city, and made them very strong. Thus Yehuḏah and Binyamin were his.


The retained pieces must represent Judah and Simeon.

Simeon has to be the "twelfth" tribe, because it is geographically absurd that Simeon should be counted as one of the ten (as would be necessary if Benjamin was made "twelfth"). See Joshua ch19 v1; "its inheritance was in the midst of the tribe of Judah" (RSV),

Then in v9 we find "The inheritance of the tribe of Simeon formed part of the territory of Judah". In other words, by Solomon's time, they would have become part of the tribe of Judah for administrative purposes. Then the "one tribe" which Ahijah holds back would be "Judah-with-Simeon".

Given the emotional commitment of Benjamin to the house of Saul, the retention of Benjamin by the house of David would have been very insecure. I suspect they were intially overawed by royal power close at hand, rather than consciously loyal.I don't suppose Judah would have been really sure of holding Benjamin territory until political events enabled Asa of Judah to overthrow the fortress at Ramah and build his own strongholds at Geba and Mizpah (1 Kings ch15 vv16-22).


Judah is the 12th piece of the robe i.e. the piece that is not mentioned. The 12th piece of robe was left with Rehoboam. The robe was ripped into 12 pieces. 1 was left with Rehoboam, 10 were given to someone else and the 11th was given to Rehoboam. The one it doesn’t’ mention was Judah as rehoboam was a Jew so he wasn’t ever going to lose Judah. Benjamin was a gift to rehoboam.

Just to clarify. Rehoboam had Judah (because he was a Jew); ten tribes were taken from him from the 11 other tribes. Benjamin was the one tribe given to him in addition to already having Judah. When it says that Benjamin was to be “a light always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen to put my name there.” It is not that Benjamin was a light to Jerusalem; Jerusalem is the light before God. Jerusalem is what make Benjamin a Light. Jerusalem is in Benjamin and not Judah. You can see this in old maps. Jerusalem is the light because that is where the temple is and God was leaving the temple with Judah and the line of David because the line of David was going to produce the Messiah who is the High Priest and the Sacrifice.God is saying; yes Rehoboam, you are being punished because of your poor decisions but that isn’t going to deter God’s long term plans and his promise to David

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