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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 12

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-15

Rehoboam's Foolish Answer

v. 1. And Rehoboam went to Shechem, in the northern part of Ephraim's territory, and even then a center of the northern tribes; for all Israel, the ten tribes outside of Judah and Benjamin, were come to Shechem to make him king, to consider the question of recognizing him as king.

v. 2. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, 1 Kings 11:40, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of King Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt,)

v. 3. that they sent and called him. It appears, from 2 Chronicles 10:2, that Jeroboam had returned to hie native country after the news of Solomon's death reached Egypt, and it was therefore an easy matter to call him. And Jeroboam, who promptly took the lead in the negotiations, and all the congregation of Israel came and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

v. 4. Thy father made our yoke grievous, namely, the yoke of labor, the burden of servile work, the heavy taxation for the many public buildings and improvements; now, therefore, make thou the grievous service of thy father and his heavy yoke which he put upon us lighter, by omitting the customary work by conscription, which, however, they had not found burdensome before, and we will serve thee, acknowledging him as king.

v. 5. And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. He wanted time to deliberate, to discuss the situation from every angle. And the people departed, readily granting him the desired time.

v. 6. And King Rehoboam consulted with the old men that stood before Solomon, his father, while he yet lived, the members of his council, or cabinet, who had always been in immediate attendance upon the king, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

v. 7. And they spake unto him, saying, giving to the king the advice based upon sound experience, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, for this one day only, and wilt serve them, yielding to their will for the present moment, and answer them, heeding their demand, and speak good words to them, tactful and kind, then they will be thy servants forever, that would be the probable outcome of the negotiations.

v. 8. But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, his rash and imperious character refused to accept the proposal, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him and which stood before him, courtiers in attendance upon the king who were anxious to obtain his favor.

v. 9. And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

v. 10. And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, noting the trend of his thought and ready to flatter his ambition, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins, that is, As the size of the little finger is to that of the loin, so was the power of Solomon to that of Rehoboam, the latter feeling able to compel the people to do his will and to carry out his ambitious plans.

v. 11. And now, whereas my father did lade you with a heavy load, I will add to your yoke, he would carry out the conscription with greater severity; my father hath chastised you with whips, using only ordinary means to enforce obedience, but I will chastise you with scorpions, with the thorn-whips used for criminals; he would use the most extraordinary and severe means.

v. 12. So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.

v. 13. And the king answered the people roughly, he gave them a hard and harsh answer, that of a tyrant, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him,

v. 14. and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, the advice which his tyrannical mind had received with such pleasure, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke; my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. The answer was foolish from every point of view and was bound to stimulate rebellious inclinations.

v. 15. Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people, gave no heed to their demand for the reduction of their burdens; for the cause was from the Lord, He so shaped events that the foolishness of Rehoboam resulted in his ruin, that He might perform His saying, which the Lord spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, 1 Kings 11:11-31. Whatever is done in the counsel of princes and statesmen, in the history of nations, is done by God's will or permission, for it is He who rules the universe.

Verses 16-33

Jeroboam King over Israel

v. 16. So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, paid no heed to their demands, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! the proverbial call bidding every man to go home. Now see to thine own house, David! Rehoboam was told that he should make arrangements to rule over his own tribe as best he might, for Israel would not acknowledge him as king. The rebellious shout with which the secession was formally proclaimed, showed the deep-rooted antipathy of the northern tribes against Judah and the kings out of that tribe, which, in turn, was caused by their indifference toward Jehovah and the Law given by Him. So Israel departed unto their tents.

v. 17. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, members of the northern tribes who had settled in the southern part of Canaan, Rehoboam reigned over them; here he was acknowledged as king without question.

v. 18. Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute, 1 Kings 4:6, who was to treat with the rebels and appease them, as the officer in charge of all work by conscription; and all Israel, in a rebellious rage, stoned him with stones that he died. Therefore King Rehoboam, who had remained in the neighborhood of Shechem, made speed, he had to make use of all his power and energy, to get him up to his chariot to flee to Jerusalem.

v. 19. So Israel rebelled against, and thus seceded from, the house of David unto this day, the time when this account was written.

v. 20. And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, when their representatives brought the news to their several homes, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, a special assembly having been called for the purpose of choosing a king, and made him king over all Israel, considering him, with his grievance against Solomon and his family, the logical man to hold this position. There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only, which included Benjamin and the cities of Simeon.

v. 21. And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, trained soldiers, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, to subdue the rebellion by force of arms.

v. 22. But the word of God came unto Shemaiah, the man of God, saying,

v. 23. Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, all those who had cast their lot with the southern monarchy, saying,

v. 24. Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, not undertake the proposed campaign, nor fight against your brethren, the children of Israel. Return every man to his house; for this thing is from Me, the events now happening came about thus by divine dispensation. They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord, they obeyed His command, and returned to depart, they desisted from their plan, according to the word of the Lord.

v. 25. Then Jeroboam built Shechem in Mount Ephraim and dwelt therein, making this city his residence; and went out from thence and built Penuel. In both cases the fortifying of the cities is referred to, for Jeroboam intended to secure his territory against attacks from the south.

v. 26. And Jeroboam, considering ways and means of bringing about a firmer union among the northern tribes, said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David, since the circumstances were such as he saw before his eyes;

v. 27. if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam, king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam, king of Judah. He probably gauged the character, the fickleness, of the people correctly.

v. 28. Whereupon the king took counsel and made two calves of gold, he cast these molten images as the result of his deliberations, and said unto them, the people of Israel, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; they had, in his opinion, made the festival journeys often enough, he wanted them to cease; behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt! Cf Exodus 32:4-8. While Jeroboam may have intended the images to represent Jehovah, the true God, it was a false worship which he hereby introduced, for the Lord had chosen Jerusalem as the place where His Temple was to stand, and it was there that the priests and Levites were busy in His service.

v. 29. And he set the one in Bethel, near the southern boundary of the northern tribes, and the other put he in Dan, in the extreme northern part of Israel's territory.

v. 30. And this thing became a sin, it resulted in open idolatry; for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan, the great distance did not hinder them from making their pilgrimages to this city.

v. 31. And he made an house of high places, a temple, or shrine, for the images in both cities, and made priests of the lowest of the people, literally, "from the mass of the people," from all classes, which were not of the sons of Levi. He therefore transgressed the commandment of God also in this respect.

v. 32. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, instead of the seventh selected by the Lord, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, the Feast of Tabernacles, the harvest festival proper; and he offered upon the altar, he ascended the incline to the large altar while the priests offered the sacrifice. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made; and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

v. 33. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart, without the command of Jehovah; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel, to take the place of at least one of the great festivals commanded by Jehovah; and he offered upon the altar and burned incense, he deliberately planned and made ready to take part in the worship which he had instituted. All apparent worship of Jehovah which men devise in their own hearts, all sacrifices and works which are made by the commandment of men and are intended to merit the favor of God are an abomination before the Lord and a transgression of the First Commandment.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/1-kings-12.html. 1921-23.
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