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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

1 Kings 12

Verse 1

Introduction

In this chapter we have come to an important point in the history of Israel: the sad separation of the kingdom into two kingdoms. This tear has two causes. The first is the sin of Solomon. The previous chapter tells about this. The second is the folly of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. We will read about this in this chapter.

The history of the two kingdoms that were created by the tear, runs roughly in three periods:

1. In the first period, which for Israel is the time from Jeroboam to Omri and for Judah from Rehoboam to Asa (1 Kings 12-16), the two kingdoms are hostile to each other.

2. This enmity ends in the second period, for Israel it is under Ahab and his sons Ahaziah and Jehoram and for Judah under Jehoshaphat, Jehoram and Ahaziah. In that period, both royal families connect with each other by establishing marital bonds. They also connect with each other in a common fight against foreign enemies. This union ends when Jehu kills both kings of the kingdoms, Jehoram of Israel and Ahaziah of Judah, at the same time (1 Kings 17-2 Kings 10:27).

3. This time of unification is followed by a third period that begins for Israel with Jehu and for Judah with Joash, in which alienation and conflict between the two kingdoms again occurs, until finally the kingdom of Israel is taken away by the Assyrians.

After the division of the kingdom, the northern realm remains called ‘Israel’. The history of that kingdom, that of the ten tribes, is a picture of the history of Christianity, or the kingdom of heaven. In that history we see the history of the people of God in the New Testament era from the point of view of man’s responsibility.

The history of Israel shows what has become of that kingdom, just as we also know how Christianity will be. The history of Christianity can be found in Revelation 2-3. There is a clear parallel between that history and that of the ten tribes realm of Israel (see the explanation of 1 Kings 11:1-8).

The great mass, both of the ten tribes realm and of Christianity, apostates further and further from God. Opposite to Israel is the two-tribal of Judah, where kings of the David family reign. Opposite the apostate mass in Christianity is a remnant that remains faithful to the Lord. Both Judah and the faithful remnant in Christianity is weak, but God connects Himself with them. In the midst of them He makes His Name dwell.

Rehoboam Goes to Shechem

Solomon, the wisest man on earth, has died. He leaves all his wealth to a foolish son. Rehoboam is a man without an own conviction. He lets himself be guided by others. This is evident right from the start. Rehoboam goes to Shechem to be made king there. Shechem is a kind of compromise place, a place – indeed in Ephraim, but also between the kingdoms. It is the place of the old public assembly (Joshua 24:1), where Abimelech, the son of Gideon, made himself king in the time of the judges (Judges 9:1).

Rehoboam goes there because the people have gone there. He is guided by the will of the people instead of by the will of God, who has designated Jerusalem as the place of His throne. By going there he wants to preserve the unity of the people.

Verses 2-5

The Demand to Lighten the Heavy Yoke

The people, led by Jeroboam, are not doing well either. When they earlier wanted a king, God already warned them what their king would do with them (1 Samuel 8:11-Job :). Now they want to shed this yoke. Jeroboam is called. Under his leadership, the people go to Shechem and proposes to Rehoboam to relieve them of the heavy yoke imposed on them by Solomon.

We already see here that the people are grumbling. They set their conditions: if Rehoboam does what they propose, they will serve him. Such an attitude does not suit the people. Solomon undoubtedly asked a lot of the people for his court and many buildings. However, he has also given the people the blessing of peace throughout his reign and made them prosperous. They have eaten and drunk and have been happy and have all lived in safety (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25). They have no reason to complain.

If a person forgets the benefits and blessings God gives him and thinks only of his duties, he becomes dissatisfied. Then it seems as if a heavy burden is being imposed on him. So it is in our relationship with the Lord Jesus. Whoever sets conditions for Him because He is considered too hard, does not know Him and has no eye for the many blessings He gives.

Verses 6-7

The Counsel of the Elders

Even more clearly than in 1 Kings 12:1 it appears that Rehoboam has no opinion of his own and joins the counsel of others when the people come to him with a request. The request is to lighten the heavy service that Solomon has imposed on the people. In order to know how to respond to this request, he asks for a reflection period. He wants to seek first. Seeking advice is not wrong in itself, but later it turns out that he listens to the counsel of his peers. With them he grew up, with them he will also have to do all his life. Those old people will soon not be there anymore.

The ancients give good advice. The behavior they recommend to Rehoboam is the best. They tell him that if he is the servant of this people, the people will serve him. By serving and serving as a master, you are only a good master. That is the mind of the Lord Jesus. He has served His own as the Lord and Master (John 13:14-Ezra :). So He was in their midst. With this He has left an example. As He has done, His own must also behave toward others (Luke 22:26-Daniel :).

Verses 8-11

The Counsel of the Young Men

Rehoboam doesn’t feel to submit to the elders’ counsel and acting as a servant. He rejects their counsel. Instead of consulting the LORD, he turns to his contemporaries and consults with them. These young men are in his service. Like him, they do not seek the good of the people. They only think about their own position, while they realize that Rehoboam is only interested in that too. The young men give him the counsel to be hard. He must make his power feel well, so that everyone knows who is in charge.

They advise him to do to add to the yoke that Solomon has laid on the people and about which they complain. By the saying “my little finger is thicker than my father’s loins”, the young men mean that Rehoboam must tell the people that his power is much greater than that of his father.

Their counsel is typically that of youth. They give him the counsel to act even harder than Solomon. That’s part of youth. They wants to prove themselves. It does not fit to the Christian; he must learn to lose himself and is called to flee the lusts of youth (2 Timothy 2:22).

Verses 12-14

The Hard Answer

Rehoboam listens to the advice of the young men and informs the people. He justifies the people in their false assertion that his father had imposed a heavy yoke on them. He does not honor his father. Nor does he concern about what his father said in his wisdom and behaves like a fool (Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 16:18). Solomon spoke about the possibility that he might have to leave the results of all his toil to a foolish son (Ecclesiastes 2:18-Psalms :). That is what is happening here.

Rehoboam does not show any respect for his father. What his father did, he portrays as insignificant. In contrast, he sets his own greatness. His whole attitude also shows how much he despises the people.

Verse 15

The Turn Is From the LORD

That he gives the hard answer, “was … from the LORD”. Couldn’t Rehoboam therefore have been different? He could. This is the mystery that is so often found in Scripture. Look for example at Pharaoh, or at Judas, or at Israel. Take Israel. Had this people to hand over the Lord Jesus? No! Yet they did it because they didn’t want Him. Yet it also says that the people have delivered Him over “by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23).

Doesn’t God incite sin? No, He never does, He is never the instigator of sin. What then? He knows perfectly who man is. He knows how to fit the actions of man, for which he himself is fully responsible, into His plans. Thus, in his own way of acting, man becomes a collaborator in the execution of God’s plans. Here we see the interweaving of God’s counsel and the responsibility of man, an interweaving that we cannot understand. We also see it in the conversion of man and the election of God.

Rehoboam, for example, is guilty of a foolish reaction here, resulting in the uprising of the people. On the other hand this turn from the LORD happens, because He said this because of the behavior of Solomon.

Verses 16-20

The Tear Is a Fact

The muscular language of Rehoboam has a devastating effect. The harsh answer gives the dissatisfied the excuse they were looking for to evade Rehoboam’s authority. In 1 Kings 12:16 the split is pronounced out loud and executed. It is then the year 931 BC. All Israel turns against the house of David, to which no one remains faithful except the tribe of Judah (1 Kings 12:20).

Mentioning the name of “David” shows that hatred is deeper than just against the government of Solomon. It is the expression of deep-rooted jealousy for the tribe Ephraim of Judah, the tribe of David. Ephraim has always felt the most important, but has not been given that place by God. The tribe does not resign themselves to that and now seizes its chance to become the most important one. Jeroboam will become king of all Israel, with the exception of the small part that belongs to the tribe of Judah. Yet Jeroboam also exercises his kingship there, because he is also king of the Israelites who live in Judah.

Rehoboam seems to be blind to the situation. As if nothing had happened, he sent the tax collector Adoram to Israel to collect money for him. That is oil on the fire. This Adoram reminds like no other of the heavy yoke of Solomon and they have just recently thrown it from themselves with strength. Adoram is being stoned to death by all Israel. By fleeing desperately, Rehoboam himself narrowly escapes death.

Verses 21-24

The LORD Confirms the Tear

Rehoboam does not accept the situation. When he realizes his mistake, he wants to repair the damage. He wants to suppress the uprising and to that end he sets up a strong army. With this he wants to go to war against his brothers to subdue them to himself. He must and shall be their king. A terrible plan.

But there still is a faithful witness. That is Shemaiah. He is emphatically called “the man of God”. God can come to him with His word. God can use him to make his thoughts known in a situation of confusion due to own will. Rehoboam is led to return.

The message of God through Shemaiah is: “This thing has come from Me.” The tearing of the realm is not a matter that has gone beyond God’s control. It did not get out of hand. The failure of Rehoboam is the fulfillment of what God has said to Jeroboam. For Rehoboam, this saying is reason to abandon his intention. The consequences of sins cannot always be undone. He would do well to accept the situation that has arisen. Whether the word of the man of God has brought him to real repentance remains a question.

It is also important to see that as the kingship decays, the ministry of prophets comes to the fore. We have already met Ahijah with a message for Jeroboam in the time of the great unfaithfulness of Solomon (1 Kings 11:29). In that time we also hear about the prophets Nathan and Iddo (2 Chronicles 9:29). Now we hear about Shemaiah. By means of prophets God continues to speak in His grace to His people in times of decay. They are, as it were, the link between Him and His people, a link that was first formed by the priests. For us, especially in times of decay, the Word of God remains the connection between the soul and God. By doing so, He tells us His thoughts about the way we should go in the midst of decay.

It is a great encouragement that we should know of every case that the Lord says: “This thing has come from Me.” This means that nothing in our lives gets out of His control. All our words, deeds and deliberations He knows. Nothing is hidden from Him (Psalms 139:1-Joshua :). He also knows the consequences of everything we do. He knows how to fit everything into His plan with our lives, without diminishing our own responsibility. Events from our lives to which we remember with shame (cf. Romans 6:21), he manages to use for His purpose. It will be for our good if we submit to His plans with our lives and adapt our lives accordingly.

Verses 25-33

A Self-Devised Religion

Jeroboam also has his responsibility. God has told him how to secure his blessing (1 Kings 11:38). However, he does not take God into account. He settles in Shechem. Rehoboam was made king there and that seems like a good residence to him. To protect himself against enemies from the northeast and east he strengthens Shechem and Penuel.

He also wants to secure his power. For this he consults himself (“in his heart”) and does not consult God. He assesses everything according to his own insight. There is no thought whatsoever of God asking Him what he should do. It seems that he knows the power of religion. The strongest bond that keeps people together is religion. In Daniel 3 we have a clear example of this. The devil doesn’t care what religion it is. As long as it is not the real service to God.

Jeroboam knows that it will soon be over with his kingship if he doesn’t act quickly on this terrain. Therefore he decides to introduce a new form of religion, to protect his kingdom against inner weakening and even the loss of his rule over it. He argues: if Jerusalem remains the religious center of the kingdom over which he has become king, the people will return “to their lord, [even] to Rehoboam king of Judah” and he will be killed.

In his consultation, Jeroboam decides to designate a few special places for the ten tribes realm to serve God. He designates one in the south of his kingdom, Bethel, and one in the north of his kingdom, Dan. Bethel means ‘house of God’. This name was given to it by Jacob after the LORD appeared to him there (Genesis 35:7). Could not the LORD, as Jeroboam may have thought, and explained to others, reveal Himself in this holy place as well to the descendants of Jacob as he did to their ancestor?

The place is also cleverly chosen. There is already an image service there. Remember that the people who live nearby will not have to make that long journey to Jerusalem again and again. The convenience serves man. After all, it is possible to serve God much closer to home. It is a cleverly devised plan to prevent the people from going to Jerusalem for the annual celebrations with the danger that they will stay there.

To make the whole even more attractive, he, contrary to what God has said (Exodus 20:4), makes two golden calves after the Egyptian model, one for each place. It is much easier to serve a god you can see. Of these gods he says that these are the gods that Israel redeemed from Egypt (cf. Exodus 32:4). These are the new objects of worship (cf. Hosea 8:5-Joshua :; Hosea 13:2-Leviticus :). He also makes new temples and new priests, who do not come from the Levites. To complete his own invented religion he also introduces a new feast at a different time and in a different place than God has prescribed (Leviticus 23:34; Leviticus 23:39Leviticus 23:41; Deuteronomy 12:5).

Everything he makes is an imitation of what God has prescribed to His people how He wants to be served. Jeroboam copies everything, so it seems that it has God’s approval. However, it is pernicious, because it is a self-willed religion. Any replacement of what God has said by human interpretation is an insult to God. Man knows better. The fact that the people simply accept this surrogate divine service is proof of how far away the hearts of the people have been from God.

That is how it went in Christianity and that is how it still goes. With ever new reasoning, more and more of what defies God has crept into Christianity. We see this especially in roman-catholicism. A religion has been made that is easy to lie on and tangible. Pagan idols are covered with a Christian sauce. Even meaner is the bringing in of the Old-Testament rituals, in which it is claimed that this is instituted by God Himself.

Religion must be easy and even enjoyable to do. For this you do not need to consult God’s Word. Nor should you be too laborious about priestly service. Anyone who is honest can be a priest and bring sacrifices. This is certainly not necessary in the place God has chosen. You can do that in a place where you feel good. The way in which you bring those sacrifices is not so important. Let yourself be guided by your feelings, that’s what God has given you. Finally, you don’t have to worry about when you do it. The self-conceived Christian holidays are an ideal opportunity to express your religious emotions and to caress your religious feelings.

As soon as we leave the service of the true God, we fall into idolatry, whatever form it may take. God makes clear how and where He wants to be served. Any deviation from this to make the service more pleasant comes from the realm of darkness and is idolatry. Such a service carries away from God. This can be applied today to church systems where the service to God is performed in a self-willed manner. These systems will finally result in the roman-catholic church, which in the end will be a refuge of demons (Revelation 18:2).

It can also be applied to churches where charismatic influences and mystical experience have been introduced, however orthodox some churches may present themselves. Modern forms of religious practice include the Jesus prayer, soaking and contemplative prayer. These are techniques that come directly from pagan religions and are very similar to meditation, with the aim of meeting God.

When the people worship a golden calf soon after the exodus from Egypt, God’s judgment comes upon it. Now that Jeroboam introduces two golden calves into the people of God, no judgment comes, but God will let evil develop to its fullest extent, so that at the end the judgment may be carried out. That is also how it went with the church. In the beginning evil is punished with death (Acts 5:3-2 Samuel :), but now God allows the many forms of evil that are introduced into the church to develop to their fullest extent, so that at the end the judgment about it can be carried out.

In his boldness Jeroboam climbs the altar. He does so on the occasion of the imitation of the Feast of Booths on the day he himself has determined for it. He leads his people in idolatry and at the same time wants to show them how to do it. After his surrogate temples and his surrogate priests and his surrogate feast he himself climbs the altar, which is also a surrogate altar, as a surrogate priest-king. In the course of time more altars have been added (Hosea 8:11). It is a through and through human religion, which has risen in the heart and mind of Jeroboam. However, it is a religion which did not come into the mind of God (Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:5Jeremiah 32:35) and is utterly reprehensible to Him.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op 1 Kings 12". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/1-kings-12.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.