II. History of the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah to the Destruction of the Former - 1 Kings 12-2 Kings 17
After the death of Solomon the Israelitish kingdom of God was rent asunder, through the renunciation of the Davidic sovereignty by the ten tribes, into the two kingdoms of Israel (the ten tribes) and Judah; and through this division not only was the external political power of the Israelitish state weakened, but the internal spiritual power of the covenant nation was deeply shaken. And whilst the division itself gave rise to two small and weak kingdoms in the place of one strong nation, the power of both was still further shaken by their attitude towards each other. - The history of the two kingdoms divides itself into three epochs. In the first epoch, i.e., the period from Jeroboam to Omri in Israel, and from Rehoboam to Asa in Judah (1 Kings 12-16), they maintained a hostile attitude towards each other, until Israel sustained a severe defeat in a great war with Judah; and on the renewal of its attacks upon Judah, king Asa called the Syrians to his help, and thereby entangled Israel in long and severe conflicts with this powerful neighbouring state. The hostility terminated in the second epoch, under Ahab and his sons Ahaziah and Joram in Israel, and under Jehoshaphat, Joram, and Ahaziah of Judah, since the two royal families connected themselves by marriage, and formed an alliance for the purpose of a joint attack upon their foreign foes, until the kings of both kingdoms, viz., Joram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah, were slain at the same time by Jehu (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 10:27). This period of union was followed in the third epoch, from Jehu in Israel and Joash in Judah onwards, by further estrangement and reciprocal attacks, which led eventually to the destruction of the kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians through the untheocratical policy of Ahaz.
If we take a survey of the attitude of the two kingdoms towards the Lord, the invisible God-King of His people, during these three epochs, to all appearance the idolatry was stronger in the kingdom of Judah than in the kingdom of Israel. For in the latter it is only under Ahab and his two sons, under whom the worship of Baal was raised into the state religion at the instigation of Jezebel the Phoenician wife of Ahab, that we meet with the actual worship of idols. Of the other kings both before and afterwards, all that is related is, that they walked in the ways of Jeroboam, and did not desist from his sin, the worship of the calves. In the kingdom of Judah, on the other hand, out of thirteen kings, only five were so truly devoted to the Lord that they promoted the worship of Jehovah and opposed idolatry (viz., Asa, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, Jotham, and Hezekiah). Of the others, it is true that Joash and Amaziah walked for a long time in the ways of the Lord, but in the closing years of their reign they forsook the God of their fathers to serve idols and worship them (2 Chronicles 24:18 and 2 Chronicles 25:14.). Even Rehoboam was strengthened at the outset in the worship of Jehovah by the Levites who emigrated from the kingdom of the ten tribes to Judah; but in the course of three years he forsook the law of the Lord, and Judah with him, so that altars of high places, Baal columns, and Asherah idols, were set up on every hill and under every green tree, and there were even male prostitutes in the land, and Judah practised all the abominations of the nations that were cut off before Israel (1 Kings 14:23-24; 2 Chronicles 11:13-17; 2 Chronicles 12:1). In all these sins of his father Abijam also walked (1 Kings 15:3). At a later period, in the reign of Joram, the worship of Baal was transplanted from Israel to Judah and Jerusalem, and was zealously maintained by Ahaziah and his mother Athaliah. It grew still worse under Ahaz, who even went so far as to set up an idolatrous altar in the court of the temple and to close the temple doors, for the purpose of abolishing altogether the legal worship of Jehovah. But notwithstanding this repeated spread of idolatry, the apostasy from the Lord was not so great and deep in the kingdom of Judah as in the kingdom of Israel. This is evident from the fact that idolatry could not strike a firm root there, inasmuch as the kings who were addicted to it were always followed by pious and God-fearing rulers, who abolished the idolatrous abominations, and nearly all of whom had long reigns; so that during the 253 years which intervened between the division of the kingdom and the destruction of the kingdom of the ten tribes, idolatry did not prevail in Judah for much more than fifty-three years,
(Note: Namely, fourteen years under Rehoboam, three under Abijah, six under Joram, one under Ahaziah, six under Athaliah, and sixteen under Ahaz, - in all forty-six years; to which we have also to add the closing years of the reigns of Joash and Amaziah.)
and for about 200 years the worship of the true God was maintained according to the commandment of the law. This constant renewal of a victorious reaction against the foreign deities shows very clearly that the law of God, with its ordinances and institutions for divine worship, had taken firm and deep root in the people and kingdom, and that the reason why idolatry constantly revived and lifted up its head afresh was, that the worship of Jehovah prescribed in the law made no concessions to the tendency to idolatry in hearts at enmity against God. It was different with the kingdom of the ten tribes. There the fact that idolatry only appeared in the reigns of Ahab and his sons and successors, is to be accounted for very simply from the attitude of that kingdom towards the Lord and His lawful worship. Although, for instance, the secession of the ten tribes from the house of David was threatened by God, as a punishment that would come upon Solomon and his kingdom on account of Solomon's idolatry; on the part of the rebellious tribes themselves it was simply the ripe fruit of their evil longing for a less theocratic and more heathen kingdom, and nothing but the work of opposition to the royal house appointed by Jehovah, which had already shown itself more than once in the reign of David, though is had been suppressed again by the weight of his government, which was strong in the Lord.
This opposition became open rebellion against the Lord, when Jeroboam, its head, gave the ten tribes a religious constitution opposed to the will of God for the purpose of establishing his throne, and not only founded a special sanctuary for his subjects, somewhat after the model of the tabernacle or of the temple at Jerusalem, but also set up golden calves as symbols and images of Jehovah the invisible God, to whom no likeness can be made. This image-worship met the wishes and religious cravings of the sensual and carnally-minded people, because it so far filled up the gap between the legal worship of Jehovah and the worship of the nature-deities, that the contrast between Jehovah and the Baalim almost entirely disappeared, and the principal ground was thereby removed for the opposition on the part of the idolatrous nation to the stringent and exclusive worship of Jehovah. In this respect the worship of the calves worked more injuriously upon the religious and moral life of the nation than the open worship of idols. This sin of Jeroboam is therefore “the ground, the root and cause of the very sinful development of the kingdom of Israel, which soon brought down the punishment of God, since even from the earliest time one judgment after another fell openly upon the kingdom. For beside the sin of Jeroboam, that which was the ground of its isolation continued to increase, and gave rise to tumult, opposing aspirants to the throne, and revolutionary movements in the nation, so that the house of Israel was often split up within itself” (Ziegler). Therefore the judgment, with which even from the time of Moses the covenant nation had been threatened in case of obstinate rebellion against its God, namely the judgment of dispersion among the heathen, fell upon the ten tribes much earlier than upon Judah, because Israel had filled up the measure of sin earlier than Judah.
The chronological computation of this period, both as a whole and in its separate details, is one of the more difficult features connected with this portion of the history of the Israelitish kingdom. As our books give not only the length of time that every king both of Israel and Judah reigned, but also the time when every king of Israel ascended the throne, calculated according to the year of the reign of the contemporaneous king of Judah, and vice versa, these accounts unquestionably furnish us with very important help in determining the chronology of the separate data; but this again is rendered difficult and uncertain by the fact, that the sum-total of the years of the several kings is greater, as a rule, than the number of years that they can possibly have reigned according to the synchronistic accounts of the contemporaneous sovereigns in the other kingdom. Chronologists have therefore sought from time immemorial to reconcile the discrepancies by assuming inaccuracies in the accounts, or regencies and interregna. The necessity for such assumptions is indisputable, from the fact that the discrepancies in the numbers of the years are absolutely irreconcilable without them.
(Note: This is indirectly admitted even by O. Wolff (in his Versuch die Widersprüche in den Jahrreihen der Könige Juda ' s und Israel ' s und andere Differenzen in der bibl. Chronologie auszugleichen; Theol. Stud. u. Krit . 1858, p. 625ff.), though for the most part he declares himself opposed to such assumptions as arbitrary loopholes, inasmuch as, with his fundamental principle to adhere firmly to the years of the reigns of the kings of Judah as normative, he is only able to effect a reconciliation by shortening at his pleasure the length of the reigns given in the text for the kings of Israel in the period extending from Rehoboam to the death of Ahaziah of Judah, and in the following period by arbitrarily interpolating a thirty-one years ' interregnum of the Israelitish kings in the kingdom of Judah between Amaziah and Uzziah.)
But if the application of them in the several cases is not to be dependent upon mere caprice, the reconciliation of the sum-totals of the years that the different kings reigned with the differences which we obtain from the chronological data in the synchronistic accounts must be effected upon a fixed and well-founded historical principle, regencies and interregna being only assumed in cases where there are clear indications in the text. Most of the differences can be reconciled by consistently observing and applying the principle pointed out in the Talmud, viz., that the years of the kings are reckoned from Nisan to Nisan, and that with such precision, that even a single day before or after Nisan is reckoned as equal to a year, - a mode of reckoning which is met with even in the New Testament, e.g., in the statement that Jesus rose from the dead after three days, or on the third day, and also in the writings of Josephus, so that it is no doubt an early Jewish custom,
(Note: Compare Gemara babyl. tract . השנה ראש, c. i. fol. 3, p. 1, ed. Amstel.: למלכים להם מונין אין מניסן אלא, “ non numerant in regibus nisi a Nisano ” (i.e., regum annos nonnisi a Nisano numerant ). After quoting certain passages, he says as a proof of this, ישראל למלכי אלא שׁני לא חסדא אמר ר, “ dixit R. Chasda: hoc non docent nisi de regibus Israelitarum . ” - Ibid. fol. 2, p. 2; השנה ראש ניסן שנה השוב בשנה אחד ויום למלכים, “ Nisanus initium anni regibus, ac dies quidem unus in anno ( videl. post calendas Nisani ) instar anni computatur . ” - Ibid.: שנה חשוב שנה בסוף אחד יום, “ unus dies in fine anni pro anno computatur . ” For the examples of the use of this mode of calculation in Josephus, see Wieseler, chronol. Synopse der vier Evangelien (Ham. 1852), p. 52ff. They are sufficient of themselves to refute the assertion of Joach. Hartmann, Systema chronol. bibl ., Rostoch. 1777, p. 253f., that this is a mere invention of the Rabbins and later commentators, even though the biblical writers may not have carried it out to such an extent as to reckon one single day before or after the commencement of Nisan as equal to a whole year, as is evident from 2 Kings 15:17 and 2 Kings 15:23.)
- for, according to this, it is not necessary to assume a single interregnum in the kingdom of Judah, and only one regency (that of Joram with his father Jehoshaphat), which is clearly indicated in the text (2 Kings 8:16); and in the kingdom of Israel there is no necessity to assume a single regency, and only two interregna (the first after Jeroboam II, the second between Pekah and Hoshea).
If, for example, we arrange the chronological data of the biblical text upon this principle, we obtain for the period between the division of the kingdom and the Babylonian captivity the following table, which only differs from the statements in the text in two instances,
(Note: Namely, in the fact that the commencement of the reign of Jehoahaz of Israel is placed in the twenty-second year of Joash of Judah, and not in the twenty-third, according to 2 Kings 13:1, and that that of Azariah or Uzziah of Judah is placed in the fifteenth year of Jeroboam of Israel, and not the twenty-seventh, according to 2 Kings 15:1. The reasons for this will be given in connection with the passages themselves.)
and has a guarantee of its correctness in the fact that it coincides with the well-established chronological data of the universal history of the ancient world.
(Note: Not only with the ordinary chronological calculation as to the beginning and end of this entire period, which has been adopted in most text-books of the biblical history, and taken from Usserii Annales Vet. et Novi Test ., but also with such data of ancient history as have been astronomically established. For the fourth year of Jehoiakim, with which the captivity or seventy years ' servitude of the Jews in Babylon commences, coincides with the twenty-first year of the reign of Nabopolasar, in the fifth year of whose reign an eclipse of the moon, recorded in Almagest, was observed, which eclipse, according to the calculation of Ideler (in the Abhdll. der Berliner Academie der Wissensch. für histor. Klasse of the year 1814, pp. 202 and 224), took place on April 22 of the year 621 b.c. Consequently the twenty-first year of Nabopolasar, in which he died, coincides with the year 605 b.c.; and the first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, which occurred before the death of Nabopolasar, took place in the year 606 b.c. - Compare with this Marc. Niebuhr ' s Geschichte Assurs und Babels, p. 47. Among other things, this scholar observes, at p. 5, note 1, that “ the whole of the following investigation has given us no occasion whatever to cherish any doubts as to the correctness of the narratives and numbers in the Old Testament; ” and again, at p. 83ff., he has demonstrated the agreement of the chronological data of the Old Testament from Azariah or Uzziah to the captivity with the Canon of Ptolemy, and in so doing has only deviated two years from the numbers given in our chronological table, by assigning the battle at Carchemish to the year 143 aera Nabonas ., i.e., 605 b.c., the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, 144 aer. Nab ., or 604 b.c., and the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple to the year 162 aer. Nab ., or 586 b.c., - a difference which arises chiefly from the fact that Niebuhr reckons the years of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar given in the Old Test. from the death of Nabopolasar in the year 605, and assumes that the first year of Nebuchadnezzar corresponded to the year 605 b.c.)
1. From the Division of the Kingdom to the Ascent of the Throne by Ahab in the 38th Year of Asa King of Judah - 1 Kings 12-16:28
This epoch embraces only fifty-seven years, which are filled up in the kingdom of Judah by the reigns of three kings, and in the kingdom of Israel by six rulers from four different houses, Jeroboam's sin of rebellion against the ordinance and commandment of God having produced repeated rebellions, so that one dynasty was ever rising up to overthrow and exterminate another. - Commencing with the secession of the ten tribes from Rehoboam, we have first of all an account of the founding of the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 12), and of the predictions of the prophets concerning the introduction of the calf-worship (1 Kings 13) and the rejection of Jeroboam and his house by God (1 Kings 14:1-20); and after this the most important facts connected with the reigns of Rehoboam, Abijam, and Asa are given (1 Kings 14:21-15:24); and, finally, a brief history of the kingdom of Israel from the ascent of the throne by Nadab to the death of Omri (1 Kings 15:25-16:28).
The jealousy which had prevailed from time immemorial between Ephraim and Judah, the two most powerful tribes of the covenant nation, and had broken out on different occasions into open hostilities (Judges 8:1.; 2 Samuel 2:9; 2 Samuel 19:42.), issued, on the death of Solomon, in the division of the kingdom; ten tribes, headed by Ephraim, refusing to do homage to Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, and choosing Jeroboam the Ephraimite as their king. Now, although the secession of the ten tribes from the royal house of David had been ordained by God as a punishment for Solomon's idolatry, and not only had Solomon been threatened with this punishment, but the sovereignty over ten tribes had been promised to Jeroboam by the prophet Ahijah, whilst the secession itself was occasioned by Rehoboam's imprudence; yet it was essentially a rebellion against the Lord and His anointed, a conspiracy on the part of these tribes against Judah and its king Rehoboam. For apart from the fact that the tribes had no right to choose at their pleasure a different king from the one who was the lawful heir to the throne of David, the very circumstance that the tribes who were discontented with Solomon's government did not come to Jerusalem to do homage to Rehoboam, but chose Sichem as the place of meeting, and had also sent for Jeroboam out of Egypt, showed clearly enough that it was their intention to sever themselves from the royal house of David; so that the harsh reply given by Rehoboam to their petition that the service imposed upon them might be lightened, furnished them with the desired opportunity for carrying out the secession upon which they had already resolved, and for which Jeroboam was the suitable man. And we have already shown at 1 Kings 11:40 that the promise of the throne, which Jeroboam had already received from God, neither warranted him in rebelling against Solomon, nor in wresting to himself the government over the tribes that were discontented with the house of David after Solomon's death. The usurpation of the throne was therefore Jeroboam's first sin (vv. 1-24), to which he added a second and much greater one immediately after his ascent of the throne, namely, the establishment of an unlawful worship, by which he turned the political division into a religious schism and a falling away from Jehovah the God-King of His people (1 Kings 12:25-33).
1 Kings 12:1
Secession of the Ten Tribes (cf., 2 Chron 10:1-11:4). - 1 Kings 12:1-4. Rehoboam went to Shechem, because all Israel had come thither to make him king. “All Israel,” according to what follows (cf., 1 Kings 12:20, 1 Kings 12:21), was the ten tribes beside Judah and Benjamin. The right of making king the prince whom God had chosen, i.e., of anointing him and doing homage to him (compare 1 Chronicles 12:38, where המליך alternates with למלך משׁך, (2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:3), was an old traditional right in Israel, and the tribes had exercised it not only in the case of Saul and David (1 Samuel 11:15; 2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:3), but in that of Solomon also (1 Chronicles 29:22). The ten tribes of Israel made use of this right on Rehoboam's ascent of the throne; but instead of coming to Jerusalem, the residence of the king and capital of the kingdom, as they ought to have done, and doing homage there to the legitimate successor of Solomon, they had gone to Sichem, the present Nabulus (see at Genesis 12:6 and Genesis 33:18), the place where the ancient national gatherings were held in the tribe of Ephraim (Joshua 24:1), and where Abimelech the son of Gideon had offered himself as king in the time of the Judges (Judges 9:1.). On the choice of Sichem as the place for doing homage Kimchi has quite correctly observed, that “they sought an opportunity for transferring the government to Jeroboam, and therefore were unwilling to come to Jerusalem, but came to Sichem, which belonged to Ephraim, whilst Jeroboam was an Ephraimite.” If there could be any further doubt on the matter, it would be removed by the fact that they had sent for Jeroboam the son of Nebat to come from Egypt, whither he had fled from Solomon (1 Kings 11:40), and attend this meeting, and that Jeroboam took the lead in the meeting, and no doubt suggested to those assembled the demand which they should lay before Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:4).
(Note: “ This pretext was no doubt furnished to the people by Jeroboam, who, because he had formerly been placed above Ephraim as superintendent of the works, could most craftily suggest calumnies, from the things which he knew better than others. ” - (Seb. Schmidt.)
1 Kings 12:2-3
The construction of 1 Kings 12:2, 1 Kings 12:3 is a complicated one, since it is only in ויּבאוּ in 1 Kings 12:3 that the apodosis occurs to the protasis וגו כּשׁמע ויהי, and several circumstantial clauses intervene. “And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard, sc., that Solomon was dead and Rehoboam had been made king ... he was still in Egypt, however, whither he had fled from king Solomon; and as Jeroboam was living in Egypt, they had sent and called him ... that Jeroboam came and the whole congregation of Israel,” etc. On the other hand, in 2 Chronicles 10:2 the construction is very much simplified, and is rendered clearer by the alteration of בּמצרים יר ויּשׁב, “and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt,” into ממּצרים יר ויּשׁב, “that Jeroboam returned from Egypt.”
(Note: At the same time, neither this explanation in the Chronicles, nor the fact that the Vulgate has the same in our text also, warrants our making alterations in the text, for the simple reason that the deviation in the Chronicles and Vulgate is so obviously nothing but an elucidation of our account, which is more obscurely expressed. There is still less ground for the interpolation, which Thenius has proposed, from the clauses contained in the Septuagint partly after 1 Kings 11:43, partly in 1 Kings 12 between 1 Kings 12:24 and 1 Kings 12:25, and in an abbreviated form once more after 1 Kings 13:34, so as to obtain the following more precise account of the course of the rebellion which Jeroboam instigated, and of which we have not a very minute description in 1 Kings 11:26 : “ Solomon having appointed Jeroboam superintendent of the tributary labour in Ephraim, for the purpose of keeping in check the Sichemites, who were probably pre-eminently inclined to rebel, directed him to make a fortress, which already existed upon Mount Gerizim under the name of Millo, into a strong prison ( צרירה( ), from which the whole district of Gerizim, the table-land, received the name of the land of Zerirah, and probably made him governor of it and invested him with great power. When holding this post, Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon, but was obliged to flee. Having now returned from Egypt, he assembled the members of his own tribe, and with them he first of all besieged this prison, for the purpose of making himself lord of the surrounding district. Now this castle was the citadel of the city in which Jeroboam was born, to which he had just returned, and from which they fetched him to take part in the negotiations with Rehoboam. Its ruins are still in existence, according to Robinson ( Pal . iii. p. 99), and from all that has been said it was not called Zeredah (1 Kings 11:26), but (after the castle) Zerira. ” This is what Thenius says. But if we read the two longer additions of the lxx quite through, we shall easily see that the words ᾠκοδόμησε τῷ Σαλωμὼν τὴν ἐν ὄρει Ἐφραΐ́μ do not give any more precise historical information concerning the building of the Millo mentioned in 1 Kings 11:27, since this verse is repeated immediately afterwards in the following form: οὖτος ᾠκοδόμησε τὴν ἄκραν ἐν ταῖς ἄρσεσιν οἴκου Ἐφραΐ́μ οὖτος συνέκλεισε τὴν πόλιν Δαβίδ, - but are nothing more than a legendary supplement made by an Alexandrian, which has no more value than the statement that Jeroboam ' s mother was named Sarira and was γυνὴ πόρνη . The name of the city Σαριρά is simply the Greek form of the Hebrew צררה, which the lxx have erroneously adopted in the place of צרדה, as the reading in 1 Kings 11:26. But in the additional clauses in question in the Alexandrian version, Σαριρά is made into the residence of king Jeroboam and confounded with Thirza ; what took place at Thirza according to 1 Kings 14:17 (of the Hebrew text) being transferred to Sarira, and the following account being introduced, viz., that Jeroboam ' s wife went ἐκ Σαριρά to the prophet Ahijah to consult him concerning her sick son, and on returning heard of the child ' s death as she was entering the city of Sarira . - These remarks will be quite sufficient to prove that the Alexandrian additions have not the least historical worth.)
1 Kings 12:4
The persons assembled desired that the burdens which Solomon had laid upon them should be lightened, in which case they would serve Rehoboam, i.e., would yield obedience to him as their king. אביך מעבדת הקל, “make light away from the service of thy father,” i.e., reduce what was imposed upon us by thy father. Solomon had undoubtedly demanded greater performances from the people than they had previously been accustomed to, not only to meet the cost of maintaining the splendour of his court, but also and principally to carry out his large and numerous buildings. But in return for this, he had secured for his people not only the blessings of undisturbed peace throughout his whole reign, but also great wealth from the trade and tribute of the subjugated nations, so that there cannot have been any well-grounded occasion for complaint. But when, as is too often the case, men overlooked the advantages and blessings which they owed to his government, and fixed their attention in a one-sided manner merely upon the performances which the king demanded, it might appear as though he had oppressed his people with excessive burdens.
1 Kings 12:5-6
In order that the request of the tribes might be maturely weighed, Rehoboam directed them to appear before him again in three days, and in the meantime discussed the matter with the older counsellors,who had served his father.
1 Kings 12:7
These counsellors said (the singular וידבּר is used- because one of them spoke in the name of the whole), “If thou wilt be subservient to this people to-day (now), and servest them, and hearkenest to them, ... they will serve thee for ever.”
1 Kings 12:8-14
But Rehoboam forsook this advice, and asked the younger ministers who had grown up with him. They advised him to overawe the people by harsh threats. “My little finger is stronger than my father's loins.” קטי, from קטן, littleness, i.e., the little finger (for the form, see Ewald, § 255, b .), - a figurative expression in the sense of, I possess much greater might than my father. “And now, my father laid a heavy yoke upon you, and I will still further add to your yoke (lay still more upon you): my father chastised you with whips, I will chastise you with scorpions.” עקרבּים, scorpiones , are whips with barbed points like the point of a scorpion's sting.
(Note: The Rabbins give this explanation: virgae spinis instructae . Isidor. His Pal. Origg . v. c. 27, explains it in a similar manner: virga si est nodosa vel aculeata, scorpio vocatur . The Targ. and Syr., on the other hand, מרגגין, Syr. mārganā ' , i.e., the Greek μάραγνα, a whip. See the various explanations in Bochart, Hieroz . iii. p. 554f. ed. Ros.)
This advice was not only imprudent, “considering all the circumstances” (Seb. Schmidt), but it was unwise in itself, and could only accelerate the secession of the discontented. It was the language of a tyrant, and not of a ruler whom God had placed over His people. This is shown in 1 Kings 12:13, 1 Kings 12:14 : “The king answered the people harshly, and forsook the counsel of the old men,” i.e., the counsellors who were rich in experience, and spoke according to the counsels of the young men, who flattered his ambition. It is very doubtful, indeed, whether the advice of the old men would have been followed by so favourable a result; it might probably have been so for the moment, but not for a permanency. For the king could not become the עגלים of the people, serve the people, without prejudicing the authority entrusted to him by God; though there is no doubt that if he had consented to such condescension, he would have deprived the discontented tribes of all pretext for rebellion, and not have shared in the sin of their secession.
1 Kings 12:15
“And the king hearkened not to the people (to their request for their burdens to be reduced), for it was יהוה מעם סבּה, a turning from the Lord, that He might establish His word” (1 Kings 11:31.), i.e., by a divine decree, that Rehoboam contributed to the fulfilment of the counsel of God through his own folly, and brought about the accomplishment of the sentence pronounced upon Solomon.
1 Kings 12:16
The harsh word supplied the discontented with an apparently just occasion for saying, “What portion have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse! To thy tents, O Israel! Now see to thy house, David!” i.e., take care of thy house. David, the tribe-father, is mentioned in the place of his family. These words, with which Sheba had once preached rebellion in the time of David (2 Samuel 20:1), give expression to the deep-rooted aversion which was cherished by these tribes towards the Davidic monarchy, and that in so distinct and unvarnished a manner, that we may clearly see that there were deeper causes for the secession than the pretended oppression of Solomon's government; that its real foundation was the ancient jealousy of the tribes, which had been only suppressed for the time by David and Solomon, but had not been entirely eradicated, whilst this jealousy again had its roots in the estrangement of these tribes from the Lord, and from His law and righteousness.
1 Kings 12:17
But the sons of Israel, who dwelt in the cities of Judah, over these Rehoboam became king. These “sons of Israel” are members of the ten tribes who had settled in Judah in the course of ages (cf., 1 Kings 12:23); and the Simeonites especially are included, since they were obliged to remain in the kingdom of Judah from the very situation of their tribe-territory, and might very well be reckoned among the Israelites who dwelt in the cities of Judah, inasmuch as at first the whole of their territory was allotted to the tribe of Judah, from which they afterwards received a portion (Joshua 19:1). The verse cannot possibly mean that “the tribe of Judah declared in favour of their countryman Rehoboam as king” (Ewald, Gesch . iii. p. 399).
1 Kings 12:18
In order to appease the agitated tribes and commence negotiations with them, Rehoboam sent Adoram, the superintendent of the tribute, to them (see at 1 Kings 4:6). Rehoboam entrusted him with the negotiation, because the tribes had complained that the tribute burdens were too severe, and the king was no doubt serious in his wish to meet the demands of the people. But the very fact that he sent this man only increased the bitterness of feeling, so that they stoned him to death, and Rehoboam himself was obliged to summon up all his strength ( התאמּץ ) to escape a similar fate by a speedy flight to his chariot.
1 Kings 12:19
Thus Israel fell away from the house of David “unto this day.”
1 Kings 12:20
The secession was completed by the fact that all Israel (of the ten tribes) called Jeroboam to the assembly of the congregation and made him king “over all Israel,” so that the tribe of Judah alone adhered to the house of David (see at 1 Kings 11:32). 1 Kings 12:20 commences in the same manner as 1 Kings 12:2, to indicate that it closes the account commenced in 1 Kings 12:2.
1 Kings 12:21-24
But after the return of Rehoboam to Jerusalem he was still desirous of bringing back the seceders by force of arms, and raised for that purpose an army of 180,000 men out of all Judah, the tribe of Benjamin, and the rest of the people, i.e., the Israelites dwelling in the cities of Judah, - a number which does not appear too large according to 2 Samuel 24:9. But the prophet Shemaiah, a prophet who is not mentioned again, received instructions from God to forbid the king to go to war with their brethren the Israelites, “for this thing was from the Lord.” הזּה הדּבר, “this thing, i.e., his being deprived of the sovereignty over ten tribes, but not their rebellion” (Seb. Schmidt). For the fact itself, see the remark on 1 Kings 12:15. The king and the people hearkened to this word. ללכת ישׁוּבוּ, “they turned to go,” i.e., they gave up the intended expedition and returned home. In 2 Chronicles 11:4 we have the explanatory phrase מלּכת ישׁוּבוּ .
Founding of the Kingdom of Israel. - 1 Kings 12:25. When Jeroboam had become king, it was his first care to give a firmer basis to his sovereignty by the fortification of Sichem and Pnuel. בּנח, to build, is used here in the sense of fortifying, because both cities had stood for a long time, and nothing is known of their having been destroyed under either Solomon or David, although the tower of Sichem had been burnt down by Abimelech (Judges 9:49), and the tower of Pnuel had been destroyed by Gideon (Judges 8:17). Sichem, a place well known from the time of Abraham downwards (Genesis 12:6), was situated upon the mountains of Ephraim, between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, and still exists under the name of Nabulus or Nablûs, a name corrupted from Flavia Neapolis . Jeroboam dwelt therein, i.e., he chose it at first as his residence, though he afterwards resided in Thirza (see 1 Kings 14:17). Pnuel was situated, according to Genesis 32:31, on the other side of the Jordan, on the northern bank of the Jabbok (not the southern side, as Thenius supposes); and judging from Genesis 32:22. and Judges 8:8., it was on the caravan road, which led through Gilead to Damascus, and thence past Palmyra and along the Euphrates to Mesopotamia. It was probably on account of its situation that Jeroboam fortified it, to defend his sovereignty over Gilead against hostile attacks from the north-east and east.
1 Kings 12:26-27
In order also to give internal strength to his kingdom, Jeroboam resolved to provide for his subjects a substitute for the sacrificial worship in the temple by establishing new sacra, and thus to take away all occasion for making festal journeys to Jerusalem, from which he apprehended, and that probably not without reason, a return of the people to the house of David and consequently further danger for his own life. “If this people go up to perform sacrifice in the house of Jehovah at Jerusalem, their heart will turn to their lord, king Rehoboam,” etc.
1 Kings 12:28-29
He therefore consulted, sc., with his counsellors, or the heads of the nation, who had helped him to the throne, and made two calves of gold. זהב עגלי are young oxen, not of pure gold however, or cast in brass and gilded, but in all probability like the golden calf which Aaron had cast for the people at Sinai, made of a kernel of wood, which was then covered with gold plate (see the Comm. on Exodus 32:4). That Jeroboam had in his mind not merely the Egyptian Apis -worship generally, but more especially the image-worship which Aaron introduced for the people at Sinai, is evident from the words borrowed from Exodus 32:4, with which he studiously endeavoured to recommend his new form of worship to the people: “Behold, this is thy God, O Israel, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” רב־לכם מעלות, it is too much for you to go to Jerusalem; not “let your going suffice,” because מן is not to be taken in a partitive sense here, as it is in Exodus 9:28 and Ezekiel 44:6. What Jeroboam meant to say by the words, “Behold thy God,” etc., was, “this is no new religion, but this was the form of worship which our fathers used in the desert, with Aaron himself leading the way” (Seb. Schmidt). And whilst the verbal allusion to that event at Sinai plainly shows that this worship was not actual idolatry, i.e., was not a worship of Egyptian idols, from which it is constantly distinguished in our books as well as in Hosea and Amos, but that Jehovah was worshipped under the image of the calves or young oxen; the choice of the places in which the golden calves were set up also shows that Jeroboam desired to adhere as closely as possible to ancient traditions. He did not select his own place of residence, but Bethel and Dan. Bethel, on the southern border of his kingdom, which properly belonged to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:13 and Joshua 18:22), the present Beitin, had already been consecrated as a divine seat by the vision of Jehovah which the patriarch Jacob received there in a dream (Genesis 28:11, Genesis 28:19), and Jacob gave it the name of Bethel, house of God, and afterwards built an altar there to the Lord (Genesis 35:7). And Jeroboam may easily have fancied, and have tried to persuade others, that Jehovah would reveal Himself to the descendants of Jacob in this sacred place just as well as He had done to their forefather. - Dan, in the northern part of the kingdom, on the one source of the Jordan, formerly called Laish (Judges 18:26.), was also consecrated as a place of worship by the image-worship established there by the Danites, at which even a grandson of Moses had officiated; and regard may also have been had to the convenience of the people, namely, that the tribes living in the north would not have to go a long distance to perform their worship.
1 Kings 12:30-31
But this institution became a sin to Jeroboam, because it violated the fundamental law of the Old Testament religion, since this not only prohibited all worship of Jehovah under images and symbols (Exodus 20:4), but had not even left the choice of the place of worship to the people themselves (Deuteronomy 12:5.). “And the people went before the one to Dan.” The expression “to Dan” can only be suitably explained by connecting it with העם : the people even to Dan, i.e., the people throughout the whole kingdom even to Dan. The southern boundary as the terminus a quo is not mentioned; not because it was for a long time in dispute, but because it was already given in the allusion to Bethel. האחד is neither the golden calf at Dan nor (as I formerly thought) that at Bethel, but is to be interpreted according to the receding את־האחד ואת־האחד : one of the two, or actually both the one and the other (Thenius). The sin of which Jeroboam was guilty consisted in the fact that he no longer allowed the people to go to the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, but induced or compelled them to worship Jehovah before one or the other of the calves which he had set up, or _(as it is expressed in 1 Kings 12:31) made a house of high places, בּמות בּית (see at 1 Kings 3:2), instead of the house of God, which the Lord had sanctified as the place of worship by filling it with His gracious presence. The singular בּית ב may be accounted for from the antithesis to יהוה בּית, upon which it rests. There was no necessity to say expressly that there was a house of high places at Bethel and Dan, i.e., in two places, because it followed as a matter of course that the golden calves could not stand in the open air, but were placed in a temple, by which the sacrificial altar stood. These places of worship were houses of high places, Bamoth, because the ark of the covenant was wanting, and therewith the gracious presence of God, the Shechinah, for which no symbol invented by men could be a substitute. Moreover Jeroboam made “priests from the mass of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi.” העם מקצות, i.e., not of the poorest of the people (Luther and others), but from the last of the people onwards, that is to say, from the whole of the people any one without distinction even to the very last, instead of the priests chosen by God out of the tribe of Levi. For this meaning of מקצות see Genesis 19:4 and Ezekiel 33:2, also Lud. de Dieu on this passage. This innovation on the part of Jeroboam appears very surprising, if we consider how the Ephraimite Micah (Judges 17:10.) rejoiced that he had obtained a Levite to act as priest for his image-worship, and can only be explained from the fact that the Levites did not consent to act as priests in the worship before the golden calves, but set their faces against it, and therefore, as is stated in 2 Chronicles 11:13-14, were obliged to leave their district towns and possessions and emigrate into the kingdom of Judah.
1 Kings 12:32-33
Jeroboam also transferred to the eighth month the feast which ought to have been kept in the seventh month (the feast of tabernacles, Leviticus 23:34.). The pretext for this arbitrary alteration of the law, which repeatedly describes the seventh month as the month appointed by the Lord (Leviticus 23:34, Leviticus 23:39, Leviticus 23:41), he may have found in the fact that in the northern portion of the kingdom the corn ripened a month later than in the more southern Judah (see my Bibl. Archäol . ii. §118, Anm. 3, and §119, Anm. 2), since this feast of the ingathering of the produce of the threshing-floor and wine-press (Exodus 23:16; Leviticus 23:39; Deuteronomy 16:13) was a feast of thanksgiving for the gathering in of all the fruits of the ground. But the true reason was to be found in his intention to make the separation in a religious point of view as complete as possible, although Jeroboam retained the day of the month, the fifteenth, for the sake of the weak who took offence at his innovations. For we may see very clearly that many beside the Levites were very discontented with these illegal institutions, from the notice in 2 Chronicles 11:16, that out of all the tribes those who were devoted to the Lord from the heart went to Jerusalem to sacrifice to the God of the fathers there. “And he sacrificed upon the altar.” This clause is connected with the preceding one, in the sense of: he instituted the feast and offered sacrifices thereat. In 1 Kings 12:32 (from עשׂה כּן onwards) and 1 Kings 12:33, what has already been related concerning Jeroboam's religious institutions is brought to a close by a comprehensive repetition of the leading points. “Thus did he in Bethel, (namely) to offer sacrifice to the calves; and there he appointed the priests of the high places which he had made, and offered sacrifice upon the altar which he had made at Bethel, on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, which he himself had devised, and so made a feast for the children of Israel and sacrificed upon the altar to turn.” מלּבד signifies seorsum, by himself alone, i.e., in this connection, i.q . “from his own heart.” The Keri מלּבּו is therefore a correct explanation as to the fact; but it is a needless correction from Nehemiah 6:8. The last clause, להקטיר ... ויּעל, leads on to what follows, and it would be more correct to take it in connection with 1 Kings 13:1 and render it thus: and when he was offering sacrifice upon the altar to burn, behold there came a man of God, etc. Thenius has rendered ויּעל incorrectly, and he stood at the altar. This thought would have been expressed by הם על ויּעמוד, as in 1 Kings 13:1. By הקטיר we are not to understand the burning or offering of incense, but the burning of the sacrificial portions of the flesh upon the altar, as in Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13, Leviticus 1:17, etc.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany