1 Kings 12:1. Shechem. This city was famed for mischief. Here Dinah was ruined, and the men slaughtered. Here Joseph was sold, and now the ten tribes revolted.
1 Kings 12:4. Thy father made our yoke grievous, by tribute and taxes. This was true; but the glory and commerce of the kingdom repaid them five for one.
1 Kings 12:14. I will chastise you with scorpions. There is a passage in Pliny, lib. 7:56, in which bunches of knotty thorns, used as Gideon to teach the men of Succoth, are put for scorpions, whose stings are in their tails.
1 Kings 12:28. Two calves of gold. The gloss to blind the people was a perversion of Psalms 81:10. These be thy gods which brought thee out of the land of Egypt; whereas the text says that “God brought them out.” The truth is, “Jeroboam ordained priests for the high places, and for devils, and for the calves.” 2 Chronicles 11:15. He could believe the Lord when he promised him the ten tribes, but he could not trust the Lord to defend the kingdom.
1 Kings 12:29. In Bethel, only four or five miles from Jerusalem.—In Dan Laish, the colony of Dan, in the north-east point, and the other in sight of the temple. Judges 18. The latter was very provoking.
1 Kings 12:31. A house of high places. As the temple was the cathedral of the synagogues, so this was to the high places the mother synagogue of Satan and the sodomites.
We now come to the wane of Solomon’s glory, and the partial fall of David’s house. His grandsons, now illustrious princes, had lost sight of the sire’s piety, and rioted in voluptuous pleasures. God therefore was resolved to humble their pride; and mark how this was brought about, while those princes dreamed of nothing but perfect safety and repose. A claim was made for the removal of some oppressive imposts, which had probably been laid on with the promise of a speedy remission. While the temple was building for the glory of God, while the palaces were rising as ornaments to the throne, and while the frontiers were fortifying for the safety of the empire, no one dreamed of complaints. But when the national works are accomplished, the minister of finance finds it very difficult to remove one tax without imposing another, for the scale of national establishments generally exceeds the public revenues.
The elders, before they urged their claims, took care to recal Jeroboam from Egypt, whom they had applauded as a patriot, and revered as merit in exile. This measure was adopted that Jeroboam might aid them by his counsel, and embolden them to address the new king in a firm tone. But Jeroboam, confident that God had given him the ten tribes, was not wanting to avail himself of the fermentation, to aim directly at the throne. Such was the critical posture of affairs, when Rehoboam went to Shechem to receive the crown.
The next object which strikes us is, the extraordinary folly and infatuation of this prince. He was, during life, the heir apparent. He was now about forty years of age; yet he had neglected to cultivate, by engaging civilities and impartial promotions, that good understanding with the heads of the several tribes, essential to make the wheels of government move with ease. The spirit of independence in those tribes being coëval with their existence, it ought to have been managed, not insulted. But this prince, it would seem, had been accustomed to flattery, to indulgence, and in every thing to have his own way. Unacquainted with himself and with human nature, he had habituated himself to despise the proverbs of his sire, and to follow passion and inexperience. Hence those extravagant notions of the royal prerogative. Hence the contempt he showed to the hoary senate of his sire, and the obstinate adherence to the haughty advice of companions who flattered the royal passion. Hence that revolting answer to the plaintive but intrepid elders: “My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with thorns;” for so it is often read. Hence that most preposterous act of sending Aduram to quell the tumult, whose office as minister of finance rendered him the most obnoxious man in the kingdom. Hence also that disgraceful flight in his chariot, destitute of a crown, and pursued with the curses of a revolted people. The stability of the throne does not consist in old forms, but to live and reign in the hearts of a loyal people.
From the extraordinary folly of Rehoboam, we turn our views to an extreme, equally fatal in the policy of Jeroboam. This man was designated as the scourge of David’s house by revelation: chap. 11. He had the offer of David’s covenant on condition of David’s fidelity. But now, elated to find himself on the throne, and gratified to find the reins of government in his hands, he presumed to trust in an arm of flesh, rather than rely on his father’s God. His eyes, familiar with the Apis or ox, adored at Memphis and at Hierapolis, and confident that one of the cherubim in the Holy of Holies had a face like an ox, Ezekiel 1:10, he dared to establish two calves in his own country. To this he was much emboldened, no doubt, by the persecution and apostasy of Solomon; but the most weighty consideration was the disposition of his more pious subjects, still to worship at Jerusalem. He feared, lest by spending a few days in the temple three times a year, they should gradually revert to the house of David. Hence he pleaded the universality of JEHOVAH’S presence; and to give the greater sanctity to his scheme, he placed one calf in Bethel, famed as a place dear to heaven because of Jacob’s vision; the other in Dan Laish, the hoary seat of idolatry, because of the plundered teraphim and seraphim of Micah. Judges 18. To be unencumbered in his humour he banished all the priests and levites, noble by birth, and made priests of such as were willing. The erection of those idols was a great sin; it likened the Deity to a calf that eateth grass. It was a most presumptuous sin, because by this transgression the whole nation had once been brought to the verge of destruction. Exodus 33. It was nevertheless deemed consummate policy for the safety of the kingdom, though it proved the total destruction of Jeroboam’s house, and ultimately the destruction of the ten revolted tribes. How vain then are all attempts to seek safety out of the Lord’s covenant protection. Above all, how daring and impious is it for a mortal man to abuse religion, by making it subservient to his interest; or to attempt innovations, not to say subversions, of the religion revealed from above!
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent