At that time Abijah son of Jeroboam became ill, and Jeroboam said to his wife, “Go, disguise yourself, so you won’t be recognized as the wife of Jeroboam. Then go to Shiloh. Ahijah the prophet is there—the one who told me I would be king over this people.”
1 Kings 14:1–2
Jeroboam was in a predicament. He had served the great Israelite ruler Solomon as an official in the department of public works. Encouraged by the words of Ahijah the prophet that he would one day be king, Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon, resulting in his exile to Egypt (see 1 Kings 11:26–40). When Solomon died and Rehoboam took over, Jeroboam returned from Egypt and seized the opportunity to lure away most of the kingdom.
Originally, Jeroboam’s main goal was to help the Israelites find a better government than the one offered by Solomon and his self-absorbed son. But, along the way, power corrupted Jeroboam; he did things to ensure his tenacious leadership while minimizing God’s influence.
Now Jeroboam’s son was sick. So the king began weaving a web of deception, enlisting his wife to dress like someone else and feign piety before Ahijah to manipulate him into giving a good report on their son. Rather than seeking God’s guidance, the couple tried to use the prophet like a good-luck charm. Things turned out very badly for them as a result.
Marriage binds husband and wife into a unity that changes both of them. While individual identities shouldn’t be crushed as “two become one,” it is also true that we cannot remain isolated or independent from one another. But in the fusing that takes place, both good and bad things can happen.
When we share our lives well, we can strengthen our mate’s resolve, nurture our spouse’s well-being and encourage each other’s gifts. Unfortunately, we can also have a negative impact on each other. We can entice our partner into supporting our mistakes and sins. We can ask our spouse to cover up for us when the phone rings and we don’t wish to be found. We can lie for our mate in public settings. We can manipulate our spouse into falsifying tax returns or hiding assets.
Marriage makes us complicit in the morality of our mate. That is an important reason to choose wisely before we wed and to build upon a strong moral center in our relationship after we are joined. Great businesses don’t collapse overnight through some minor accounting error; their foundations slowly erode as leaders make each other complicit in deceptive schemes. So it is in marriages. While we can win for a while as we help each other cheat on the truth, in the long run we build a kingdom of facades in which we can neither trust our partner’s face nor clearly see our own.
On the other hand, when we learn from mistakes like those of Jeroboam and his wife, we can build a complicity of goodness that our children and friends will admire someday when they help us celebrate our silver and golden wedding anniversaries.