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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 12

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-24



1 Kings 12:1-24; 2 Chronicles 10:1-11:4

At the close of the introductory chapter we were considering the causes of the division, remote and near. I had not quite concluded that subject. The one man most to blame for this division was Solomon. The overruling cause was God. This was announced to Solomon, 1 Kings 11:9-13, as follows: "And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned away from the Lord, God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice. And had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he kept not that which the Lord commanded. Wherefore the Lord said unto Solomon, Forasmuch as this is done of thee, and thou hast not kept my covenant and my statutes, which I have commanded thee, I will surely rend the kingdom from thee, and will give it to thy servant. Notwithstanding in thy days I will not do it, for David thy father’s sake: but I will rend it out of the hand of thy son. Howbeit I will not rend away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to thy son for David my servant’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen." Mark that one tribe.

God’s purpose was announced to Jeroboam with the conditions, 1 Kings 11:27-40, "And the man Jeroboam was a mighty man of valour: and Solomon saw the young man that he was industrious, and he gave him charge over all the labor of the house of Joseph. And this was the cause that he lifted up his hand against the king. And it came to pass at that time, when Jeroboam went out of Jerusalem, that the prophet Ahijah the Shilonite found him in the way; now Ahijah had clad himself with a new garment; and they two were alone in the field. And Ahijah laid hold of the new garment that was on him, and rent it in twelve pieces [mark the 12 pieces]. And he said to Jeroboam, Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee: (but he shall have one tribe, for my servant David’s sake, and for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel) because that they have forsaken me, and have worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, Chemosh, the God of Moab, and Milcom, the god of the children of Ammon; and they have not walked in my ways, to do that which is right in mine eyes, and to keep my statutes and my judgments, as did David his father. Howbeit I will not take the whole kingdom out of his hand: but I will make him prince all the days of his life, for David my servant’s sake, whom I chose, because he kept my commandments and my statutes: but I will take the kingdom out of his son’s hand, and give it unto thee, even ten tribes. And unto his son will I give one tribe, that David my servant may have a lamp always before me in Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there. And I will take thee, and thou shalt reign according to all that thy soul desireth, and shalt be king over Israel."

Now mark the conditions: "And it shall be, if thou wilt hearken unto all I command thee, and wilt walk in my ways, and do that which is right in mine eyes, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as David my servant did; that I will be with thee, and will build thee a sure house, as I built for David, and will give Israel unto thee. And I will for this afflict the seed of David, but not forever. Solomon sought therefore to kill Jeroboam; but Jeroboam arose and fled into Egypt, unto Shishak king of Egypt, and was in Egypt until the death of Solomon."

In pursuance of this overruling of God, an enemy did he raise up from the south against Solomon, 1 Kings 11:14; 1 Kings 11:21-22: "And the Lord raised up an adversary unto Solomon, Hadad the Edomite; he was of the king’s seed in Edom. And when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers, and that Joab the captain of the host was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, Let me depart, that I may go to mine own country. Then Pharaoh said unto him, But what hast thou lacked with me, that, behold, thou seekest to go to thine own country? And he answered, Nothing: howbeit let me depart in any wise." When Joab made war on Edom and almost extirpated the nation, one little boy – this boy Hadad – was saved. His mother and some friends got him into Egypt, and there he wag raised up. Now, that is enemy number two; Jeroboam was the first.

An enemy was also raised up from the north by the Lord. In 1 Kings 11:23; 1 Kings 11:25 we read: "And God raised up another adversary unto him, Rezon the son of Eliada, which had fled from his lord Hadadezer king of Zobah. And he was an adversary to Israel all the days of Solomon, beside the mischief that Hadad did: and he abhorred Israel and reigned over Syria." Mark the rise of the Syrian government on the north; we will have a good deal to do with it in the history in connection with this man Rezon and his successors. Now, here are three men, and when a man has three deadly enemies he must walk prudently. From this northern enemy arose the Syrians.

The immediate occasion of the division was a great popular assembly of the whole nation, called to meet at Shechem, one of the holy places in the tribe of Ephraim, to consider the question of the kingdom; the immediate cause of the disruption took place at that popular assembly, which we will bring out more particularly. The law of selecting kings was as follows: First, God must appoint him. Second, the people in popular assembly must approve. That was not an absolute monarchy: it was both a monarchy and a democracy. The great congregation of Israel, the Jewish ecclesia or church, had a potential voice in public affairs. The proof of this is seen in the fact that the popular assembly approved Saul, David and Solomon, after God had appointed them. The reader will find that a great popular assembly met at Mizpeh (1 Samuel 10:17-21), and in that assembly the people ratified God’s choice of Saul as king. Then when God made David king a great popular assembly came together at Hebron (2 Samuel 5:1-3; 1 Chronicles 2:1-3) and ratified the divine choice. When Solomon was made king this popular assembly was held at Gihon (1 Kings 1:38-40). So we see that these assemblies were customary in order to commit the people by voluntary act to God’s appointment. We find in Exodus 19 that the popular assembly voted to enter into covenant with God. So we must not consider this convocation at Shechem as an irregular or unusual proceeding. Shechem, the place of the assembly, was a notable place in Jacob’s time, and long after Jacob. It has long been a holy place and was situated in the hill country of Ephraim.

When Solomon died the tribes sent to Egypt for Jeroboam to come back. I have showed the great capacity and industry of this spokesman. He belonged to the tribe of Ephraim; and the prophet of the tribe of Ephraim at Shiloh had announced to him that he would be king of the ten tribes. Inasmuch as he had been assessor and collector over Ephraim and Manasseh, he had ample opportunity to get acquainted with the people, to know exactly what their burdens were under the Solomon rule, and they admired him very much. So it was quite natural that when this great assembly was held in the territory of the tribe of Ephraim, Jeroboam should be brought back to be the spokesman. And I am surprised in view of the prophecy made by Ahijah that the tribes were so temperate in that public meeting.

The proposition of the tribes to Rehoboam was as follows: "If you will lighten somewhat the burdens put on us by your father, we will serve you and will ratify your divine nomination as king." They had a real grievance; Solomon had imposed onerous taxes for the purpose of luxury) vainglory, and to pamper his heathen wives. It was a very just grievance; and they proposed only that the burden be lightened somewhat. Now, we may not expect a popular assembly to consent to being governed by a man who disregards their interests. Rehoboam said, "I will take it under advisement three days." That was a very wise thing to do. So he utilized the three days in seeking advice. First, he applied to the old men, the counsellors of his father. That also was a thoughtful thing to do. Action belongs to young men, but counsel belongs to old men; old men have more experience, and they are not apt to think that they have the world in a sling as young men are wont to do.

The parallel texts show a verbal difference in the counsel of the old men. 1 Kings 12:7 says, "If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and will serve them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever." That is, the old men counseled reciprocal service; the king must serve the people if he wants the people to serve him. Now the idea of serving does not appear in the Chronicles’ account, but the "good words" does; about the serving 2 Chronicles 10:7 says, "If thou be kind unto these people, and please them, and speak good words – then they will be thy servants," but I stand upon what is said in Kings. No man need expect to be a ruler of a free people in a tyrannical sense; he is not there for his own good: he is there to serve the people, and whether he be a policeman, a constable, a judge, a legislator, a governor, or president, if he does not render equitable service to the people, he is not entitled to the respect of the people. That goes with all offices; that is the principle, and those were wise old men who gave that advice.

Now, if he had said to those people, "It is evident that these burdens on you are too heavy, and that the kingdom is not carried on sufficiently in your interest, and you have as much right to the protection of the king as he has to expect your cooperation," the matter would have been ended. But Rehoboam, raised up in that cosmopolitan, luxurious court of his father, in which the very air of the foreigner was breathed, and imbued with the ideas of Oriental despotism absorbed even in his youth, turned away from these old men and went to the young courtiers, the young fellows brought up with him, and said, "What do you say that I should reply to this popular assembly?" If ever on earth the folly of youth appears, it is in the suggestion of these young men. They looked on a king as a despot, as absolutely owning the people under him. Their counsel virtually was this: "Do not commence your reign with compromise and weak conciliation. Be a master. Speak roughly. Tell them plainly you will add to, instead of lightening, their yokes; that your little finger will be heavier than your father’s loins, and whereas he chastized them with whips you will chastize them with scorpions."

What is the meaning of "chastize with scorpions"? There were two kinds of whipping: one with scourges, generally made with twisted leather or rods. The other was a stiff handle with ten or twelve leather thongs attached to it, pointed with pieces of wire crooked like fish hooks at the end of each piece of leather, like the "cat-o’-nine-tails" in the navy, or the Russian Knout. To strip a man and bring that iron-pointed whiplash down on his naked back, every stroke would cut into his flesh in ten or twelve places. That is whipping with a scorpion.

The reply of the ten tribes when that scorpion whip was held up was the very war cry of Sheba’s rebellion: "What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents O Israel: now see to thine own house, David." Well, that is a very natural response. Any popular assembly would have responded like that. Patrick Henry said that the colonies had exhausted every method of seeking redress of grievances; that they had prostrated themselves at the foot of the throne; that they had tried petition and argument, and in response to their petitions they had been spurned from the foot of the throne; instead of favors, fleets and armies had been sent to darken the waters and overshadow the land. What was their reply to a tyrannical throne? It was an appeal to arms from New England to Georgia. So Israel departed to their own tents.

The first attempt to enforce union was when Rehoboam sent his deputy, Hadoram, to go right on and collect the tribute, and when this collector came to enforce collections, they simply stoned him to death; that was their reply. The second attempt was when Rehoboam assembled an army of 180,000 men – like England assembled her armies – but before the battle commenced God’s prophet, Shemaiah, came and forbade this war against their brethren, and announced that this division was of the Lord; that he overruled it. Thus the voice of God prevented an attempt to coerce a union.

The revolting ten tribes were Ephraim, Manasseh, Reuben, Gad, Dan, Issachar, Zebulun, Asher, Naphtali, and Benjamin. Now doubtless some one will come back at me with the question: How is that? Benjamin was a part of the army Rehoboam raised. Yes, part of Benjamin was living in Judean cities – a small part of the tribe lived in Jerusalem – but the bulk of the tribe of Benjamin went with the ten tribes. Now there is Judah on one side and those ten tribes on the other side; that makes eleven tribes. Where is the twelfth tribe, Simeon? My answer is that his territory was inside of the territory of Judah, and when we say Judah we mean Judah and Simeon. How, then, does the division go? On one side is Judah including Simeon and a part of Benjamin, the city of Jerusalem and five miles around it to the north, including such of the ten tribes as dwelt in the territory of Judah. They came down to the Temple service, and finding it convenient, made their homes there. The record says in 2 Chronicles 10:17, "But as for the children of Israel that dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them." So there were two tribes and certain parts of tribes in Judah.

Now, that still does not account for one tribe. There were originally thirteen tribes, but God took the tribe of Levi to himself and made up the original number of twelve tribes by giving Joseph two tribes – Ephraim and Manasseh. What about the tribe of Levi? My answer is that the tribe of Levi was distributed in the Levitical cities all over the whole territory. That was God’s tribe, and we will learn in the next chapter that the Levites went with the tribe of Judah, solid. Indeed we learn a remarkable piece of Judaic history in the next chapter with reference to these Levitical cities. When Jeroboam established his government and worship and created a priesthood out of the common people – anybody – the Levites who were distributed in all the cities all over the country, abandoned the ten tribes and sided with Judah forever. So now we have Judah, Levi, Simeon, a part of Benjamin and a resident part of the population of Israel living in Judah. In the following history we will see large secessions from Israel to Judah.

The ten tribes got all of that big territory east of the river Jordan, including Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh; then they got from the northern point of the Dead Sea straight across the Mediterranean Sea, allowing Judah about five miles north of Jerusalem. Even Jericho fell to the ten tribes. There remained to Judah a little bit of a county affair; it was only five miles from Jerusalem to the northern line, and only about twenty miles in any other direction that they were enabled to hold. Rehoboam’s circuit of fifteen fortified cities really delimited on the south and west. Most of the schools of the prophets were in the Northern Kingdom. But all through this history we will see that there is a steady stream of the ten tribes coming back to Judah. That is one of the things that Chronicles particularly notices.

The period of the divided kingdom was about 253 years. Only one dynasty reigned in Judah, the line of David; there were never any changes. There were nine dynasties in Israel. The ten tribes were always changing. They commenced with Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and his son, and then all his family was killed. The second was Baasha and his son, Elah, and they were all killed; third, Zimri, and he was killed; fourth, Omri; there were two claimants, a man named Tibni contested with Omri. Omri had three successors in his family, Ahab, Ahaziah, Jehoram. The fifth dynasty was Jehu. He killed every man, woman, and child that belonged to the family of Omri. Jehu had the longest dynasty of any of the northern kings: Jehu, Jehoahaz, Jehoash, Jeroboam II and Zechariah. The sixth dynasty was Shallum. He held the fort but one month. The seventh dynasty was Manahem and his son Pekahiah, succeeded him. The eighth dynasty was Pekah: he was killed. The ninth dynasty, and the last, was Soshea, and he was led away into captivity. Note the great difference: there was no settled government of the ten tribes throughout the period of all the 253 years, and not a good king. There were only three dynasties of the Northern Kingdom which were history makers: the dynasties of Jeroboam I, Omri, and Jehu. We will have a great deal to do with those three dynasties.

Certain prophets are named, some of whom wrote canonical books of the Bible. In the Northern Kingdom the following prophets are named: Ahijah, Jehu, Elijah, Micaiah, Elisha, Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Oded. Three of them wrote Bible books: Jonah, Amos, and Hosea. Some of the prophets north and south are unnamed. The prophets of the Southern Kingdom before the fall of Israel, who are named, were Shemaiah, Iddo, Azariah, Hanani, Jehu, Jahaziel, Eliezer, Obadiah, Joel, Zechariah (not the postexilian prophet), Isaiah, and Micah. Of these four wrote canonical books: Obadiah, Joel, Isaiah, Micah. In Israel where were the schools of the prophets they far exceeded by the hundreds. In both kingdoms they were the very life of the nation. They were the historians, poets, orators, reformers – the very voice of God to the conscience of king and people.

The difference in the attitude of the prophets in the two kingdoms toward the kings is very marked. In the Northern Kingdom every prophet was against the kings, except one – and he only a part of the time. The Northern Kingdom was always against God, and the prophets were always for God, and we see a fight between the prophets and the kings. Now, in the Southern Kingdom, four-fifths of the time the prophets and the kings worked together. That is a remarkable difference. The one notable exception in the Northern Kingdom was Elisha. Of the prophets named Jonah was a foreign missionary. Here the question of the ten tribes comes up. Were the ten tribes lost and what is the proof? I say the proof is found in the secessions from Israel to Judah and the later references to the several tribes. Hosea and Amos of the Northern Kingdom foretold the recovery of the ten tribes. See Hosea 1:10-11; Hosea 3:4-5; Amos 9:7-15.

One comment closes the record of most of the northern kings: "And he walked in the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, which he caused Israel to sin." We will find a sin bigger than the sin of Jeroboam after a while in the Northern Kingdom.

Judah had great advantages. First, it had the Temple and its services and its feasts. Second, it had the priests and Levites, we may say, the teachers; they were the great scholars. Third, it had the undying promise of God that the line of David should never fail.


1. What one man was most to blame for the division of the Kingdom?

2. What was the overruling cause?

3. How was this announced to Solomon?

4. How was God’s purpose announced to Jeroboam, and what conditions thus stated?

5. In pursuance of this overruling of God, what enemy did he raise up from the south against Solomon and what of his history?

6. What enemy was raised up from the north by the Lord?

7. What nation arose from this northern enemy?

8. What was the immediate occasion of the division?

9. What law of selecting kings?

10. What proof that this was the law of selecting kings?

11. Who was the spokesman of the ten tribes in this popular assembly and what his special qualifications for this duty?

12. What proposition of the ten tribes to Rehoboam, what his immediate answer and what the wisdom of such a course?

13. What counsel of the old men and what its merits?

14. How did Rehoboam regard this counsel and what course did he pursue?

15. What is meant by "chastize with scorpions"?

16. What was the reply of the ten tribes to the threat of chastisement with scorpions and what example in modern history?

17. What was Rehoboam’s first attempt to enforce union and what was the result?

18. What was his second attempt and what its result?

19. What the revolting tribes and of what did Judah consist? Explain fully.

20. What were the geographical limits of the two divisions?

21. To which side were adherents always coming from the other side?

22. How long the period of the divided kingdom?

23. How many and what dynasties in Judah?

24. How many and what dynasties in Israel?

25. What three dynasties of Israel were history makers?

26. What prophets are named in each kingdom and who of them wrote canonical books of the Bible?

27. What difference in the attitude of the prophets in the two kingdoms towards the kings?

28. What one notable exception in the Northern Kingdom?

29. Which of the prophets named was a foreign missionary?

30. Were the ten tribes lost and what the line of argument?

31. What prophets of the Northern Kingdom foretold the recovery of the ten tribes and what the passages?

32. What one comment closes the record of most of the northern kings?

33. What great advantages had Judah?



1 Kings 12:25-15:8; 2 Chronicles 11:5-13:22

The theme of this section is the beginnings of the two rival kingdoms, or the measures adopted by the rival kings to establish their respective kingdoms. This is a period of twenty-four years and covers the reigns of Jeroboam and his son Nadab) kings of Israel, and of Rehoboam and his son Abijah, kings of Judah.

The initial measure adopted by Jeroboam to establish his kingdom was as follows: First, he built a city at Shechem, where the great popular assembly was held, and which was and had been since Jacob’s time, a holy place. That, he made his capital. Second, as a large part of his territory, including two and a half tribes, was across the Jordan, he built another city and fortified it at Penuel, so as to command the fords of the Jordan, and this secured his kingdom on both sides of this river. Third, he established his residence at Tirzah, first mentioned in the book of Joshua, and in Solomon’s Song we have the expression: "As beautiful as Tirzah." It was also in the hill country of Ephraim, and it was a beautiful mountain palace.

The initial measure of Rehoboam was to fortify and supply with provisions, garrisons, and munitions of war, fifteen cities on the southern and western frontiers, for a defense mainly against Egypt. A new dynasty had come to the front in Egypt. Shishak was a very formidable and vigorous opponent, not to be compared with the weak dynasty with which Solomon made an alliance by marriage. This Shishak was really a great man. Egypt was the power that Rehoboam and Judah feared.

Other measures of Jeroboam were political expedients in, order to keep the ten tribes from going to Jerusalem to the great feasts. He saw what had been the great power of Jerusalem and its Temple and worship as a unifying force, and he said to himself, "If my people go every year to Jerusalem they will imbibe its spirit, and the result will be that they will ultimately turn back to Rehoboam the king of Judahä and will kill me. Now, how am I to stop this annual pilgrimage of my people to Jerusalem?" And these were the expedients that he devised: First, he established calf worship. He had two molten calves put up, viz: one at Dan, in the extreme upper part of his territory and one at Bethel, the place where Jacob was converted and a holy place. It will be remembered that when the tribe of Dan left the territory allotted to them, they migrated to the very northern part of the country, captured the places there, and worshiped the images they had taken there from Micah. There had been, then, ever since the times of the judges, a place of worship at Dan, but it was an image worship.

Second, he established a new order of priesthood. He refused to permit the Levites and their priests, left in the citiesin his territory, to minister for him; he was afraid of them. And so he created a new order of priesthood by taking any man from any tribe that pleased him and making him a priest. Third, he made a new feast to take the place of the Feast of Tabernacles. That feast the Jews generally attended, and millions would go every year, and they would dwell in tents. Now, he determined to have a feast to take the place of the Feast of Tabernacles, and as the season of the year was later in the northern part of the country, he made his feast just one month later than that of Tabernacles, as the record tells us: "He ordained a feast devised in his own heart." The Feast of Tabernacles was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and he put his feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, just a month later.

Fourth, he established high places for worship of wooden images. In the book of Judges we learn how Gideon cut down the groves, that is, the forest of images. However, Jeroboam established what is called in the Revised Version, "he-goat worship." What is meant by it? Among the Greeks it was the worship of Pan. Pan is an image with a man’s face and the form of a goat; these he-goats are sometimes called satyrs. These are heathen minor deities, and allusion is made to them in the book of Leviticus. They are sometimes called devils, and that is what they really were, i. e., demons: it was a kind of demon worship. Now, for his priesthood he made houses at Dan and at Bethel, and in all of these high places, and there this he-goat, or demon worship, was carried on. These were his political expedients.

The calf worship that he established was a mixture of calf and Jehovah worship. When Moses stayed up in the mountain so long, the people asked Aaron to mold a calf for them to worship, as a symbol of Jehovah. It was not an entire abandonment of Jehovah worship, but it was the worship of Jehovah under the symbol of a calf, and they said of that calf that Aaron made, "Behold the god that brought you up out of the land of Egypt." That was an express violation of the commandment, "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven or molten image, in the likeness of anything in the heaven above or the earth beneath, and bow down and worship before it."

This fundamental innovation in religion weakened his kingdom and strengthened Judah. Now, 2 Chronicles 11:16-17 tells us as follows: "And after them, out of all the tribes of Israel, such as set their hearts to seek the Lord, the God of Israel, came to Jerusalem to sacrifice unto the Lord, the God of their fathers. So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah, and made Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, strong, three years: for they walked three years in the way of David and Solomon."

The priests and the Levites were the teaching forces, as well as the guides in religion. When they banish religious teachers from a kingdom, or expatriate its best men, they do a great harm to that kingdom; they take away those who have the power to keep up the religious idea. That was a tremendous loss to the nation of Israel. These were laymen, too, the best people of the land. As I have already said, one of the peculiarities of the book of Chronicles is to record every secession from Israel back to Judah, and we will come to many a one before we get through, and thus we will see that a remnant of the ten tribes was saved.

Now, it weakened Jeroboam in the following ways: It completely separated his people from God; second, it perpetuated a sin for 253 years that readily ate out the heart of the religious nature of the people and caused their ultimate downfall. Two passages of Scripture show how far-reaching the effect of this sin was. 1 Kings 14, commencing at 1 Kings 14:15 reads as follows: "The Lord shall smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water; and he shall root up Israel out of this good land, which he gave to their fathers. . . . And he shall give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he hath sinned, and wherewith he has made Israel to sin." Now, when we come to the end of the period of the divided kingdom, we will find the other passage, 2 Kings 17:21-23. This passage accounts for the downfall of the ten tribes. Commencing at 1 Kings 14:21: "For he rent Israel from the house of David; and they made Jeroboam, the son of Nabat king: and Jeroboam drave Israel from following the Lord, and made them sin a great sin. And the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they departed not from them; until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight. . . . So Israel was carried away out of their own land to Assyria, unto this day." Now, we cannot overemphasize the magnitude of a sin that destroys a nation, and I do not know any sin but the sin of Adam more far-reaching in its consequences than the sin of Jeroboam.

How often at the end of a reign of an Israelitish king does this refrain come: "He did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah, and walked in the way of Jeroboam, and in his sin wherewith he made Israel to sin"? We may say that this was the inscription on the tomb of every Israelitish king, not one of them a good man. I used to say that sin is like Bermuda grass, indestructible, and that no man can commit a single sin; that it is a great breeder, it makes other sins. I have used this illustration: A hunter may think that he sees just one quail, but when he flushes him there is always a pair or a covey. And I have used this passage from Longfellow’s "Hiawatha" to show the multiplying power of sin: Never swoops the soaring vulture Oil his quarry in the desert, on some Sick or wounded bison, but another vulture watching From his high aerial lockout Sees the downward plunge and follows. And a third pursues the second; Coming from the invisible ether, first a speck, And then a vulture, till the air is dark with pinions.

All have witnessed the way in which buzzards flock to a car-cass. From these illustrations we get some conception of this multiplying power of sin. And I repeat that aside from the sin of Adam, no sin described in the Bible as I can now recall, has such a long fearful sweep as the sin of Jeroboam. Jehovah announced his displeasure by sending a man out of Judah, a man of God, it does not give his name – and he came to Bethel on the day that the worship of the calf was to commence, and came into the presence of Jeroboam who was about to officiate as high priest and used these words (what solemn words they are): "Oh, Altar, Altar, Thus saith the Lord: Behold, a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he sacrifice the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men’s bones shall they burn upon thee. And he gave a sign the same day, saying, This is the sign which the Lord hath spoken: Behold, the altar shall be rent, and the ashes that are upon it shall be poured out." How long before that was fulfilled? We have to turn forward to the reign of Josiah to find an exact fulfilment of it.

Let us see how Jeroboam received this announcement of the prophet of God. In 1 Kings 13:4 we have these words: "And it came to pass, when the king heard the saying of the man of God, which he cried against the altar at Beth-el, that Jeroboam put forth his hand from the altar, saying, Lay hold on him." And his hand which he put forth toward the prophet became rigid (he could not move it) and it dried up. There he stood with that dried up, shriveled arm. He then begged the prophet to pray for him, and the prophet prayed for him and the hand was healed.

The tragic end of the nameless prophet was as follows: Jeroboam asked this prophet to be his guest. He declined because God had told him not to go into anybody’s house, and not to tarry in that place, but to come straight back when he had delivered his message. The prophet refused to accept the invitation of Jeroboam. But there was an old man in Bethel, who was himself a prophet, there were schools of the prophets established over the land. Now, this prophet heard of the miracles performed by the prophet from Judah and sent after the man of God, urging him to come back and take bread with him. The nameless prophet said, "I have been commanded not to do that." The other said, "I also am a prophet, and bid you to come back," and he went back, and then came the warning to him that he should die. On leaving the house a lion met him and smote him from the ass upon which he was riding and killed him. The lion did not eat him – he was not mangled – but the people found his dead body there.

I shall never forget that when I was a little bit of a child this was the Sunday school lesson, "The Fate of the Disobedient Prophet." There was a picture of it in the Sunday school book. The old prophet that lived there at Bethel took him and buried him in a secret place, that his bones should not fall under the denunciation he had himself given. The old prophet said to his children, "When I die, bury me by the side of this man of God; I do not want my bones taken up and burned on that altar."

Jeroboam did not relent in his purpose on the announcement of this prophecy and its marvelous sign, for that very day the altar split wide open and the ashes fell out; and then there was the miracle of staying his hand, but he did not repent and give up his evil purpose. The record says, "After this thing Jeroboam returned not away from his evil ways, but made again from among all the people priests of the high places; whosoever would, he consecrated him that there might be priests of the high places. And this thing became a sin unto the house of Jeroboam," and he destroyed it off the face of the earth. So this sin not only destroyed the people ultimately, but it destroyed him and all of his house. His policy in the main accompanied his object. The record tells us that the people, the main body of them, quit going to Jerusalem, but joined in this idolatrous worship that Jeroboam had prescribed. The effect on Jeroboam himself was destructive. The record says that the Lord smote him and all of his house perished – not a man, woman, or child was left. This is voiced by Jehovah himself, and the occasion of it was that his son was sick, and he told his wife to go to the prophet, Ahijah, who had announced to him that he would get ten tribes in the division of the kingdom. He told his wife to disguise herself, and take presents with her, and go and ask that prophet that the child might live. But the Spirit of God informed the prophet of the disguise before the woman got there, and he met her with this terrible announcement: "And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, – he said, Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam; why feignest thou thyself to be another? for I am sent to thee with heavy tidings. Go, tell Jeroboam, that because of this evil I will cut off every man child, him that is shut up and him that is left out, and I will utterly sweep away the house of Jeroboam, as a man sweepest away refuse, and him that dieth in the city shall the dogs eat, and him that dieth in the fields shall the fowls eat. The Lord hath spoken. Rise and get thee to thine own house, and when thy feet enter into the city the child shall die. And all Israel shall mourn for him, for he alone of Jeroboam’s family shall come to the grave." He is the only one of the family that shall ever receive burial. And then he goes on to say that this sin would destroy the entire nation. This is one of the most solemn utterances in the Bible.

The next measure adopted by Jeroboam to establish himself was an alliance with Shishak. It will be remembered that he fled to Egypt in the days of Solomon, and married into the family of this very Shishak. He made an alliance with Shishak to invade Judah, of which we will speak presently. Jeroboam himself reigned twenty-two years; his son reigned after him two years; his dynasty, therefore, lasted twenty-four years. Rehoboam and his son Abijah, and his son Asa, came to the throne before Jeroboam died. The attitude of the two kingdoms toward each other was war continually, all the days of Jeroboam’s life and the life of his son. But Rehoboam prospered three years – just as long as the people remained faithful unto God. His sin and the sin of his people we find in 1 Kings 14:22-24, and some of it is awful. Let us look at it: "And Judah did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord;... For they also built them high places on every high hill and under every green tree; and there were also Sodomites in the land: they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord drove out before the children of Israel."

This sin was punished. The record tells us that Shishak, the king of Egypt, invaded the land with a vast army, with much cavalry and many chariots of war. He easily broke through those fifteen cities of defense and came up to Jerusalem, and as his armies surrounded Jerusalem Rehoboam and all the peopie prayed to God and repented of their sins. Mark this difference between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. And God delivered them out of the hand of the Egyptians. But Shishak carried away all of those rich treasures that had been gathered by Solomon; the golden shields he took away with him, and made the land tributary to Egypt.

Archeology throws some light on this invasion of Shishak. Not a great while ago, in uncovering the ruins of the temple of Karnak on the Nile, there was found the inscription of Shishak on his return from this invasion. It shows what cities he captured, and how he had taken away the treasures from Jerusalem. But the important light that it throws on the period is this: Among the cities captured it gives the names of the Levitical cities in Israel. He did not destroy any of the cities of Jeroboam, but all the Levitical or Canaanite cities that remained faithful to Judah he captured. That is shown in the inscriptions – such of them as are discernible. Is it not strange that after thousands of years the spade keeps turning up proof of the truth of the Bible? When archeology first commenced the radical critics said that it would destroy the Bible. Inscriptions on monuments, deep carvings in rock that the dust of centuries has settled upon, are brought to light and demonstrate that this book does not deal in lies. We need to fear nothing as having the power to destroy the testimony of this book.

The length of Rehoboam’s reign was seventeen years; that of his son was three years. The great event in Abijah’s reign was the war with Jeroboam. He raised an army of 4,000,000 men and went into Ephraim and met Jeroboam with 8,000,000 men, and Jeroboam divided his forces into two parts, to take them on two sides. But before the battle commenced there was a prelude that to me has always been interesting. We find it in 2 Chronicles 13:4-12, as follows: "And Abijah stood up upon Mount Zemaraim, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, and said, Hear me, O Jeroboam and all Israel; ought ye not to know that Jehovah the God of Israel, gave the kingdom over Israel to David forever, even to him and his sons by a covenant of salt? Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up, and rebelled against his Lord. And there were gathered unto him worthless men, base fellows, that strengthened themselves against Rehoboam the son of Solomon, when Rehoboam was young and tenderhearted, and could not withstand them. And now ye think to withstand the kingdom of Jehovah in the land of the sons of David; and ye are a great multitude) and there are with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made you for gods. Have ye not driven out the priests of Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and have made you priests after the manner of the people of other lands? so that whosoever cometh to consecrate himself with a young bullock and seven rams, the same may be a priest of them that are no gods. But as for us, Jehovah is our God, and we have not forsaken him; and we have priests ministering unto Jehovah, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites in their work; and they burn unto the Lord every morning and every evening burnt offerings and sweet incense: the shewbread also they set in order upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of Jehovah our God; but ye have forsaken him. And, behold, God is with us at our head, and his priests with the trumpets of alarm to sound an alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against Jehovah, the God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper."

That was a very hard message, and in the battle which followed Abijah’s army killed more Israelites than there were in his own army – he had only 40,000 men and he killed half a million. The effect of this battle was terrific. The record tells us that Jeroboam never recovered from that battle. But Abijah was a very strong man, yet not as faithful to Jehovah as he boasts to Jeroboam.

The state of affairs at the end of the twenty-four years was as follows: Jeroboam was dead, smitten of God; his son, after an inglorious reign of two years, was murdered by Baasha, and only one of the family of Jeroboam ever received burial; Baasha killed every one of them that was alive. Now, in the other kingdom, Asa, one of the greatest of the kings of Judah, had come to the throne, and that is the way they stand at the end of the twenty-four years.


1. What was the time period of this chapter, who were the kings of Israel and Judah and the time each reigned respectively?

2. What were the initial measures adopted by Jeroboam to establish his kingdom?

3. What was the initial measure of Rehoboam and why this particular measure?

4. What other measures, or political expedients, adopted by Jeroboam?

5. What was the calf worship which he established?

6. What was the effect of this fundamental innovation and how do you account for it?

7. What was the sad refrain at the end of the reign of each of the Israelitish kings? Illustrate.

8. How did Jehovah show his displeasure and what was the fulfilment of the prophecy of the "nameless prophet"?

9. How did Jeroboam receive the message and what the result?

10. Relate the tragic story of the nameless prophet.

11. What was the effect of this great demonstration on Jeroboam?

12. Did his policy in the main accomplish his object?

13. What was the effect on Jeroboam himself?

14. How was this voiced by Jehovah and what the occasion of it?

15. What was the next measure adopted by Jeroboam to establish himself?

16. How long did Jeroboam reign, how many kings of Judah during his reign, how long his dynasty and what its end?

17. What was the attitude of the two kingdoms toward each other?

18. How long did Rehoboam prosper?

19. What was his sin and the sin of his people?

20. How was this sin punished?

21. What light does archeology throw on the invasion of Shishak?

22. What was the length of Rehoboam’s reign, how long his son’s reign and what great event of Abijah’s reign?

23. What was the effect of the battle between Abijah and Jeroboam?

24. What were the characteristics of Abijah?

25. What was the state of affairs in each kingdom, respectively, at the end of twenty-four years?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 1 Kings 12". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/1-kings-12.html.
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