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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
1 Kings 12

 

 

Verses 1-33


The Revolt of the Ten Tribes. Rehoboam and Jeroboam

The revolt of the Ten Tribes against the rule of Rehoboam had its origin partly in the discontent which the burdens laid on the people by Solomon had created and which Jeroboam (who knew of it, see 1 Kings 11:28) had perhaps stimulated, and partly in the jealousy subsisting between the northern tribes and Judah, which had manifested itself previously in the separate kingdoms of Ish-bosheth and David, and the insurrections that disturbed David's reign over the whole people (2 Samuel 20:1); whilst the bond of union constituted by a common religious faith must have been weakened by Solomon's idolatry.

1. Shechem] The principal town of Ephraim (the modern Nâblûs): it had manifestly been restored after its destruction as related in Judges 9:45. The choice of this city as the place of assembly was due partly to the importance of Ephraim as a tribe, and partly to its nearness to a sanctuary (that on Mt. Ebal, Joshua 8:30). It was a gathering place for the tribes in Joshua's days (Joshua 24:1). For all Israel.. king] The tribal spirit of independence was still sufficiently strong to make it necessary for the Judæan Rehoboam to receive separately the homage of the other tribes.

2. Dwelt in Egypt] LXX has creturned from Egypt.'

3. Called him] This implies that Jeroboam was known to sympathise with the grievances under which the people laboured.

4. Made our yoke grievous] i.e. by the forced labour imposed upon them (1 Kings 5:13).

7. If thou wilt be a servant] i.e. by making timely concessions to his people.

10. My little finger] a figurative expression, explained by what follows.

11. Scorpions] a rod or lash used in scourging.

15. The cause.. Lord] i.e. the turn of events was the means appointed by God's providence to bring about the punishment merited by Solomon's sin (1 Kings 11:11-13).

16. What portion] for this signal of revolt cp. 2 Samuel 20:1. Now see.. house] a declaration of independence and a warning against further interference.

17. Children of Israel.. Judah] probably, in the main, members of the tribe of Simeon: cp. 1 Kings 19:3 with Joshua 15:28.

18. Adoram] cp. 2 Samuel 20:24. He is called Adoniram in

46. Tribute] RV 'levy.' Stoned him] Stones were the usual weapons in outbreaks of popular fury: cp. Exodus 17:4; 1 Samuel 30:6.

19. Unto this day] This passage must originally have been written not only before the destruction of Jerusalem but of Samaria: cp. 1 Samuel 8:8.

20. The tribe of Judah only] This accords with the words of Ahijah in 1 Kings 11:32 and if the remaining tribes that fell to Jeroboam are reckoned as ten (1 Kings 11:31) and not eleven, the explanation is to be found in the omission of Levi (as the priestly tribe) and in regarding Ephraim and Manasseh as constituting the single tribe of Joseph: cp. 1 Kings 11:28. But in 1 Kings 11:21, 1 Kings 11:23, Benjamin is joined with Judah as belonging to Rehoboam; and this, in large measure, was really the case, the frontier between the two kingdoms lying within that tribe. Simeon, too, by its position must have been practically absorbed by Judah.

22. Shemaiah] mentioned again in 2 Chronicles 12:5, 2 Chronicles 12:7, 2 Chronicles 12:15.

23. The remnant of the people] i.e. those belonging by lineage to the other tribes: cp. 1 Kings 12:17.

25. Built] i.e. fortified: cp. 1 Kings 9:17. Penuel] in Gilead, E. of Jordan: cp. Judges 8:8.

26. Now shall.. David] Jeroboam feared that if his people still went to Jerusalem three times a year to keep the feasts, they would be tempted to return to their allegiance to Rehoboam. He had not sufficient faith in God's power to bring about His promises (1 Kings 11:38), and so adopted measures to safeguard his newlywon throne which branded his name for ever with infamy (cp. 1 Kings 14:16), and brought calamity both on his house and his people.

28. Two calves of gold] The calves were not intended as substitutes for the Lord (Jehovah) but as symbols of Him, as appears from the king's words to the people. It has been thought by some that such symbols were derived from Egypt where the living bull Apis was worshipped, and where Jeroboam had lived in exile. But the calves which he set up were probably imitations of the calf made in the wilderness by Aaron; and it is scarcely likely that the Israelites, when escaping from Egypt, would, to represent their own God, borrow an emblem from their task-masters. It is more probable that a calf or young bull was chosen as a religious symbol because to an agricultural people the bull was a natural emblem of force and vigour. But though Jeroboam, in setting up the calves, did not break the first commandment of the Decalogue, he yet violated the second, and from motives of state policy (1 Kings 12:26-27) corrupted the religious worship of his people, not only by making it sensuous instead of spiritual, but by employing symbols which represented merely Jehovah's power (whether displayed in creation or destruction) and altogether failed to suggest His highest attributes—those of righteousness, holiness, and love. That these coarse symbols long continued to be worshipped appears from Hosea 8:5-6; Hosea 10:5. Thy gods] The plural is used because there was more than one image, but the same God was represented by both.

29. Beth-el.. Dan] on the S. border of Ephraim and in the N. of Naphtali respectively, and so at the two extremities of the kingdom to meet the convenience of the people. Both places had previously been the seats of religious worship: see, for Bethel, Genesis 28:1-22; Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:7; Judges 20:26; 1 Samuel 10:3 and for Dan, Judges 18:30. Jeroboam hoped to revive their ancient popularity.

30. Before the one] The text is incomplete: RM 'before each of them.'

31. An house of high places] LXX 'made houses (i.e. sanctuaries) upon high places': see on 1 Kings 3:2. Of the lowest of the people] better, 'from all the people indiscriminately.' In Dt the priesthood is restricted to the Levites (see on 1 Kings 8:4), and the narrator judges Jeroboam's conduct from the standpoint of the Deuteronomic law.

32. The feast] i.e. the Feast of Tabernacles or Ingathering, on the 15th day of the 7th month. The new feast instituted by Jeroboam was placed a month later, probably on account of the later date of the vintage in N. Palestine.

He placed in Beth-el] Bethel appears to have been, at least in later times, the royal sanctuary (Amos 7:13).

33. Of his own heart] For political and self-regarding reasons he disturbed the hallowed associations which had gathered round the month previously set apart for the Festival of Ingathering. He offered upon the altar] The king himself officiated as priest. The v. is closely connected with 1 Kings 13:1.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/1-kings-12.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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