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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 12

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-24

SECOND PERIOD. (975 TO 722 B.C.)

(1 Kings 12:1-17)


From The Division Of The Kingdom Until The Reign Of Ahab

(1 Kings 12:1 to 1 Kings 16:34)


The Division Of The Kingdom
(1 Kings 12:0)

A.—The renunciation of the house of David by the ten tribes

1 Kings 12:1-24 (2 Chronicles 10:1 to 2 Chronicles 11:4.)

1And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem tomake him king. 2And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it,1 (for he was fled from the presence of kingSolomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;2) 3that they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam,saying, 4Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us,lighter, and we will serve thee. 5And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.

6And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answerthis people? 7And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak goodwords to them, then they will be thy servants for e1 Kings 1 Kings 12:8 But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with theyoung men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him: 9and 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? 10And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, 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 thousay unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins. 11And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.3

12So Jeroboam4 and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as theking had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. 13And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gavehim; 14and spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastisedyou with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. 15Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the Lord [Jehovah], that he might perform his saying, which the Lord [Jehovah] spake by Ahijah the Shiloniteunto Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 16So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your5 tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their17tents. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah,Rehoboam reigned over them. 18Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram,6 who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.19So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

20And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah7only. 21And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, a hundred and fourscore8 thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdomagain to Rehoboam the son of Song of Solomon 2:0; Song of Solomon 2:02But the word of God9 cameunto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and tothe remnant of the people, saying, 24Thus saith the Lord [Jehovah], Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord [Jehovah], and returned to depart, according to the word of the Lord [Jehovah].10

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 12:1. And Rehoboam went to Shechem. The city of Shechem was about eighteen hours’ distance north of Jerusalem, and lay at the foot of Mount Gerizim, in the mountain range of Ephraim (Judges 9:7). It is often mentioned in the history of the Patriarchs (Genesis 12:6; Genesis 33:18; Genesis 34:2; Genesis 37:12), and Joshua had intended it to be a free Levite city. He likewise gathered all the tribes together there, and held that important diet in which all the people pledged themselves to the observance of Jehovah’s covenant (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 24:1; Joshua 24:25). In the time of the Judges, Abimelech made Shechem the capital of his kingdom (Judges 9:0.); he destroyed it, indeed, but it was soon rebuilt, and continued to be one of the chief cities of the northern part. 1 Kings 12:1 gives us the reason why Rehoboam left Jerusalem, where he had been made king, and went to Shechem; for all Israel were come to Shechem. By כָּל יִשְׂרָאֵל we are not to understand all the twelve tribes (Ewald), but only ten, as 1Ki 12:12; 1 Kings 12:18; 1 Kings 12:20 clearly show; under David even those tribes had claimed the name of the entire people (2 Samuel 2:9-10; 2 Samuel 2:17; 2 Samuel 2:28). בַּא is not the imperfect but the pluperfect, for the ten tribes did not go to Shechem because the king was there but just the reverse: because (כִּי) they had gone to Shechem, the king went thither. He therefore did not call them together there, but they, i. e., their elders, judges, and representatives, had assembled in this old Ephraimitic capital, as they had once done in Joshua’s time (Joshua 24:1; cf. 2 Samuel 5:1; 1 Kings 5:3), and this induced the king to journey to Shechem. Their design in meeting was to make him king, i. e., to recognize him as king, as Judah had done, though he had already ascended the throne; to pay him homage, on the condition, however, that he would agree to their wishes and demands. This was why they did not assemble in Jerusalem, as they were in reality bound to do, and as they had done to David when they went to Hebron, the place of David’s residence, to do him homage (2 Samuel 5:1 sq.), but in Shechem. It was a “a significant hint, if Rehoboam had properly understood it” (Ewald). It is very improbable that they summoned him to their assembly, as they did Jeroboam; he seems to have gone unsummoned with his whole retinue (1 Kings 12:6; 1 Kings 12:8). That the 10 tribes had assembled “to assert their ancient right of choice” (Gramberg) is an entire mistake. For there is no mention anywhere of such a right; and the text does not say they went to Shechem to choose a king, but to make him—Rehoboam—king, i. e., to confirm him as such.

1 Kings 12:2-3. And it came to pass, when Jeroboam … heard of it, &c. 1 Kings 12:2. If we retain the reading וַיֵּשֶׁב יָרָבְעָם בְּמִצְרָיִם we must, like Maurer, take 1 Kings 12:2 to be properly the antecedent sentence, and begin the conclusion with וַיּבֹאוּ, 1 Kings 12:3, and translate like De Wette: “When Jeroboam heard of it (he was still in Egypt, whither he had fled from Solomon the king, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt, and they sent and called him), then Jeroboam and the whole assembly came, and they spake to Rehoboam.” Apart from the crude form of this sentence, the words following “he was still in Egypt,” namely, “and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt,” appear to be quite superfluous; we must in this case supply, after he had returned from Egypt, before “then Jeroboam came;” and, finally, it would follow that the people assembled at Shechem sent messengers thence to Egypt to bring back Jeroboam, which is not to be supposed, because the journey there and back required several weeks, and “all Israel” would have been compelled to wait during this time, without accomplishing anything, in Shechem, for Jeroboam’s arrival. But all these difficulties fall away if we read, like 2 Chronicles 10:2, וַיָּשָׁב יָרָבְעָם מִמִּצְרָיִם, i. e., and Jeroboam returned from Egypt. According to this, the case was simply so: On the news of Solomon’s death Jeroboam returned from Egypt to his tribe-land Ephraim, and, we are to imply, to his native place Zereda (1 Kings 11:26), or, as the Sept. says, Sarira, which could not have been very far distant from Shechem. They sent thither for him; he came, and took the lead in the negotiations which those assembled at Shechem made with Rehoboam. The Vulgate also translates 1 Kings 12:2 : At vero Jeroboam, cum adhuc esset in Ægypto profugus a facie regis Salomonis, audita morte ejus reversus est de Ægypto. Miseruntque et vocaverunt eum; venit ergo Jeroboam et, etc. The [Vatican] Sept., which places this verse in 1 Kings 11:43, translates: κατευθύνει καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς τὴν πόλιν αὐτοῦ εἰς τὴν γῆν Σαριρὰ τὴν ἐν ὄρει ’ΕΦραΐμ. It is easy to see what thoughts those who composed this Assembly were revolving when, before Rehoboam’s arrival, they called the man who had lifted up his hand against Solomon, and was just returned from Egypt, and made him their leader and speech-maker to Rehoboam. Rehoboam having come to them, instead of they to him at Jerusalem, only made them bolder. From the long sentence which the Sept. places after 1 Kings 12:24 we can glean nothing certain regarding Jeroboam and his conduct after he returned from Egypt; everything is mixed together and the different personages confused; for instance, Jeroboam is confounded with Hadad the Edomite, and the prophet Ahijah with the prophet Semaiah; Jeroboam’s mother is called γυνὴ πόρνη, &c. Keil is right in denying all historical value to this sentence, out of which Thenius strives to complete the story.

1 Kings 12:4-5. Thy father made our yoke grievous, &c. 1 Kings 12:4. The word עֹל does not mean every kind of heavy load, but the yoke laid on the neck of beasts designed for labor (Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7); it is the yoke of labor, and, as such, the symbol of servile work (Deuteronomy 28:48; Leviticus 26:13; Jeremiah 27:8; Jeremiah 27:11); it is, for this reason, parallel with עֲבֹדָה here. The grievance, therefore, is nothing—it is well to notice this—but the levy-work for Solomon’s public buildings, and we see this plainly enough by 1 Kings 12:11; 1 Kings 12:14, where Rehoboam’s answer is recorded. That the complaint was well founded, that Solomon had really exacted too heavy servile work from his people, as the Egyptian king once did in Moses’ time (Exodus 11:1, 23), is generally taken for granted, although the complaint comes from the mouths of a number of people who were excited with thoughts of secession, and who were jealous of Judah. At their head stood a man, too, who had already tried to raise an insurrection, and had not renounced his ambitious plans in exile. Complaint from the mouths of such cannot be taken as testimony, nor can it ever weigh under such circumstances, except joined to other and purely historical evidence. We have none such, however. Solomon was not the first to adopt the measure of a conscription for working at the public buildings as well as for war-service. This was customary throughout the ancient East. Everywhere, from Egypt to Babylon, the immense buildings were raised, not by paid workmen, but by conscriptions. There were, for instance, the 360,000 men who worked twenty years at one pyramid (see above on 1 Kings 5:13). Even David had, among his five chief officers, one who was specially “over the tribute” (2 Samuel 20:24), which was then a standing regulation. We find the tribute brought into system in Solomon’s time, and the people were, as contrasted with conquered foreigners, treated with gentle consideration (chaps. 1 Kings 5:13 sq.;1 Kings 9:20 sq.). Nowhere is the voice of complaint heard about it, and our author is far from representing Solomon’s conduct as hard and blameworthy, but rather relates it to his praise. As the tribute-work was distributed by turns amongst “all Israel,” Ephraim or the ten tribes received no more proportionately than the two remaining tribes, and there is not the most indirect allusion anywhere that Solomon exacted more from the Ephraimites than from the others. For this reason, the complaint of the “yoke” being “grievous,” which they alone make, seems to be only a welcome excuse suggested to them by their former superintendent Jeroboam. The real motive came to light later (1 Kings 12:16). If we cannot admit the complaint of too hard tribute-work to be well founded, still less have we any right to add other things to the complaint of which it makes no mention. The grievous yoke and heavy service are not generally taken to mean, as the plain expressions do, the tribute-work alone, but all burdens laid on the people, i. e., the taxes and produce which they had to pay and deliver; not their powers of labor alone, but their “capacity of paying taxes,” are thought to have been too much tested by Solomon (De Wette, Ewald, Eisenlohr). “Discontent grew with the oppression of the people by ever new burdens and tributes, that were quite contrary to the original freedom of the community” (Diestel); the monarchy had become “a despotism, a sultanate” (Duncker), and the speakers for the people had therefore laid before Rehoboam “the terms of capitulation, which were to lighten the universal oppression under which Israel had sighed since Solomon’s reign began” (Winer, R.-W.-B. II. s. 311). This view, almost universally current, stands in direct contradiction with the historical evidence. As to the taxes and deliveries, they are not once mentioned in the complaint, as we have already said; neither is the poverty or other misery resulting from them once named anywhere. It is difficult to conceive how any one can appeal to such places as 1 Kings 10:25 (De Wette), for there is no mention there of what the people brought, but of the presents which strangers brought the king. Ewald himself admits that there is no evidence that there was an income tax, and it by no means appears, as Winer supposes, from 1 Kings 10:15, that “custom duties” had been introduced. There is still less historical proof of the universal oppression of the people under Solomon. All that our author relates, from chap. 2. to 10., is to show the unwonted prosperity and splendor of Solomon’s kingdom; its immense wealth, its peaceful condition, and its thriving commerce are described in the strongest terms, and just by those passages which have been quoted to prove the heaviness of the taxation and the supposed oppression, is it specially manifest how happy and peaceful the people were under Solomon’s reign (1Ki 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25; cf. 1 Kings 8:66), so that the prophets took the kingdom of Solomon as a type of the Messiah’s (see above). Even after chap. 11, in which Solomon’s fall is recorded, there is nothing to show that Israel “sighed” under universal oppression; and when the people as well as king became degenerate in the latter part of his reign, it was rather in consequence of too great prosperity and luxury than of great burdens and poverty. Finally, Solomon is threatened, in both addresses of the prophet Ahijah (1 Kings 11:11; 1 Kings 11:31 sq.), with the partition of his kingdom, not because he had oppressed the people with servile labor and heavy taxations, but solely because he had suffered his strange wives to persuade him to introduce idolatrous forms of worship. It would have been a just and well-founded complaint had they alleged that Solomon had broken the supreme command in the fundamental law of Israel by the toleration of idol-worship, and had thus undermined the strength of the kingdom. But the complainants are wholly silent on this, and the sequel shows how little they or their speaker Jeroboam cared for the observance of that fundamental law.

1 Kings 12:6-14. Rehoboam consulted, &c. 1 Kings 12:6. The זְקֵנִים are not old people, but the elders (senators) who constituted the administration-college of Solomon [or council] (1 Kings 4:2-6). Rehoboam had retained them as such, but had not, as Thenius thinks, “placed them on the retired list,” for in that case he would not have taken them with him to Shechem, and he certainly would not have heard their counsel before that of the young men. The expression, that stood before Solomon, shows that they were in immediate attendance on the king. In their advice, 1 Kings 12:7, הַיּוֹם stands next to כָּל־הַיָּמִים, and עֶבֶד at the beginning, over against עֲבָדִים at the conclusion; and as עֶבֶד is strengthened by the immediately following וַעֲבֵדְתָּם, we have no right to weaken it, and to take it in another sense from עֲבָדִים that stands opposite to it at the conclusion; this is generally done, and עֶבֶד is translated “complaisant,” but עֲבָדִים, on the contrary, is translated “subject.” The elders not only advised the king to compromise, but that he should “serve” the people at least “this day,” and assured him that the people would then be his “servants” “for ever;” they proposed that he should for the present moment reverse the existing relation: the king was to be “servant” and yield to the will of the people, in the expectation that the people would afterwards be his “servants.” We can easily imagine that such a proposal (which would not perhaps have succeeded) was not very agreeable to the rash and imperious young king, in whose veins Ammonite blood flowed (1 Kings 14:21). The word יֶלֶד, 1 Kings 12:8, is used for a child at any age from its birth (Exodus 2:3; Exodus 2:6-7) to youth; יְלָדִים are not, therefore, real counsellors, like the זְקֵנִים, but young people who were in attendance upon the king (“stood before him”). The words, that were grown up with him, show that Rehoboam was himself still יֶלֶד (cf. 2 Chronicles 13:7). The proverbial expression 1 Kings 12:10, my little finger, &c., means, I am much mightier than Solomon; his power was as the little finger to the body, compared with mine; if my father had power to compel you, I have still more. From this general way of speaking they proceed in 1 Kings 12:11 to allude to the particular grievance of the forced labor. The yoke and whips belong together, and are the signs of laboring servants (Ecclesiasticus 30:26 or Sir 33:27). The king was to use instead of the whips for servants the thorn-whip used for criminals alone, and which was called scorpio by the Romans (Isidor. Origg. v. 27, 1 Kings 18:0 : Virga. si est aculeata, scorpio vocatur, quia arcuato vulnere in corpus infigitur). The meaning is, my father used ordinary means to keep you at work, but I will do it with extraordinary and severer means. The answer says as little of taxes as the complaint itself; it only refers to the enforced work, and it does not even admit that Solomon exacted too much, but it is only now proposed to do so. The pleasure with which Rehoboam accepted this advice is very indicative of his disposition.

1 Kings 12:15-17. The cause was from the Lord. 1 Kings 12:15. Inasmuch as the inconceivably foolish and perverse resolve of Rehoboam carried with it the irremediable division of the people and kingdom, the verse asserts it to be a course of things (סִבָּה from סבב) from Jehovah; not that Rehoboam was forced unwillingly to speak so, but in the same sense in which it is said of Pharaoh (Exodus 14:4; Romans 9:17) and of Judas (Matthew 26:25). Witsius (Decaphyl. i. 3) says: Ipsa Rehabeami stolida imprudentia consilio Dei inservivit, ut quod accidit etiam merito accidisse videtur. We find here an application of the proverb: Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat. Every case of a hardened heart is a righteous judgment of God.

1 Kings 12:16-17. What portion have we, &c. 1 Kings 12:16. This was the old Ephraimite watchword of rebellion, of which Sheba availed himself against the house of David (2 Samuel 20:1). The first member of the sentence means this, What concern have we about David and his house, when the question is who shall be king over us? We have no fellowship with each other (Deuteronomy 10:9). Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse is not equal to we can hope for and expect nothing from him; but, we do not belong to him, as Judah, by race-derivation. In the “son of Jesse” there is an allusion to David’s humbler descent, just as in the New Testament to one “carpenter’s son” (Matthew 13:55). To your tents, O Israel! is a proverbial call which originated in the time of the march through the wilderness, where the camp was arranged according to the tribes. Let every one return to his tribe and his home, without acknowledging Rehoboam. Now see to thine own house, i.e., see how you can reign over your own tribe in the future; you have no right to us any more. In this whole cry “the deeply rooted dislike to David’s royal house is strongly expressed, and we can perceive a more potent cause for the partition than the alleged oppression of Solomon” (Keil). 1 Kings 12:17 means that only those individuals belonging to the ten tribes remained under Rehoboam who were settled in Judah or had gone to settle there (2 Chronicles 11:3). The verse does not mean, then: “the tribe of Judah chose Rehoboam, who was one of them, to be king” (Ewald); for Judah had already acknowledged him such before he went to Shechem.

1 Kings 12:18-19. Adoram, who was over the tribute, &c. 1 Kings 12:18. No doubt the same who is called Adoniram in the list of Solomon’s chief officers (chap 1 Kings 4:6), as also the Sept., Syr., and Arab. call him in this passage. Thenius thinks he was the son of Adoram, the chief of the tribute officers, who is mentioned in the lists of David’s officials (2 Samuel 20:24). If he was identical with this person he must certainly have been about eighty years of age, since David could not have given the office in question to quite a young man, and Solomon reigned forty years. It is evident that Rehoboam sent him to treat with the rebels, and to appease them, as Josephus expressly says. As the question was about lightening the tribute work, the chief officer over the tribute seems to have been selected by Rehoboam as the fittest person to mediate; probably Adoram was one of the “elders” who gave the advice to yield. But the people were highly incensed at the sight of this officer, and instead of listening to him, in their rage they stoned him. Bertheau has no grounds for his supposition that he came with an armed force (however small) to force the rebels to submission. For: unto this day, see on 1 Kings 8:8; 1 Kings 9:21.

1 Kings 12:20-21. And it came to pass when all Israel heard, &c. 1 Kings 12:20 closes the narrative, 1 Kings 12:1-19, and is also the connecting link with the following 1 Kings 12:21-24. The independence of the ten tribes had been achieved by their representatives in Shechem, who now returned to their different tribe-territories (end of 1 Kings 12:16), and announced to “all Israel” what had happened, especially also the part that Jeroboam, just arrived from Egypt, had acted there. The latter, no doubt, also returned to his native place after the event. But when a king was to be chosen for the rebels he was called back and made king. This exasperated Rehoboam to make war on Israel. We cannot be surprised at the number he brought into the field, as the tribe of Judah alone had 500,000 men of war in the census that David took (2 Samuel 24:9).

1 Kings 12:22-24. But the word of the Lord came, &c. 1 Kings 12:22. The prophet Shemaiah did not belong to the tribe of Ephraim, like Ahijah (1 Kings 11:29), but doubtless to Judah, and from the present passage as well as from 2 Chronicles 12:5, it seems that he must have lived in Jerusalem. As here, so also he had great influence through his preaching, when king Shishak came from Egypt to war against Rehoboam; he also wrote a history of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:5-8; 2 Chronicles 12:15). The thing is from me, 1 Kings 12:24. This prophet of Judah, as well as the Ephraimite prophet, declares the separation of the ten tribes to be a divine dispensation, which, humiliating and painful as it was to the house of David and Judah, might not be opposed by force of arms; for the separated tribes were still “brethren.” Thus he recognizes a higher bond of union in spite of all separation, and wishes that union held intact. The king and army follow his advice; they probably saw that a war with the numerically greater and just now bitterly excited ten tribes would bring them into a worse condition still.

Historical and Ethical

1. The rebellion of the ten tribes against David’s house, and the consequent partition of the kingdom, was the most important and pregnant event in the history of Israel since it became an independent State. The divisions that took place in the time of the judges were only temporary, but this lasted for hundreds of years, and only terminated with the fall of both the separated kingdoms. An event that formed such an epoch, and had such a marked influence on sacred history, cannot possibly be traced to one fact alone, or to the defiant and thoughtless answer of Rehoboam; it must have been produced by deeper and more general causes, lying in the character of the people and in the mutual relation of the tribes. The tribe of Judah and the double one of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh, Joshua 17:17), whose progenitors were especially favored in the blessing (Genesis 49:8-12; Genesis 49:22-25), were from the beginning the most numerous, and therefore the most powerful, of all the twelve tribes. Judah numbered seventy-six thousand and five hundred before the entrance into Canaan; the double tribe of Joseph numbered eighty-five thousand and two hundred men (Numbers 26:22; Numbers 26:28; Numbers 26:34; Numbers 26:37); this tribe claimed the largest territory at the division of the land (Joshua 17:14 sq.; 1 Chronicles 5:1) on account of its number, and because it had inherited Reuben’s birth-right. But the “sceptre” was promised to Judah, and the leaders in the march through the desert as well as in the conquest of Canaan headed that tribe (1 Chronicles 5:2; Numbers 2:3; Numbers 10:14; Judges 1:2; Judges 20:18); both tribes were warlike (Judges 1:4; Judges 1:10; Judges 8:1 sq.; 1 Kings 12:1 sq.; Psalms 78:9). In consequence of these relations, each tribe regarded itself as equal in powers with the other tribes, but also as evenly matched with each other. But added to this there was a difference in the character and pursuits of the tribes; whilst Judah was the leader and head of the theocracy and the covenant, therefore of higher religious life (Genesis 49:10; Psalms 60:9; Psalms 78:67 sq.; Psalms 114:1-2), Ephraim represented the nature-side of the people’s life; and the consciousness of natural, material strength and earthly abundance appears with it in the foreground (Genesis 49:22 sq.; Deuteronomy 33:13; Psalms 78:9 sq.). There was, therefore, in the latter more receptivity for nature-religion, and a tendency to independence of any other tribe, and especially of one not entirely its equal. There was, then, the germ of a dualism very early in the nation, and this germ grew more and more in the distracted times of the Judges, asserting itself sometimes with more, sometimes with less energy. After Saul’s death the two chief tribes formally separated under different kings (2 Samuel 2:4-11); this, however, only lasted seven years and a half, after which the revolted tribes went over to the king of Judah, i.e., David (2 Samuel 5:1 sq.). But the more the power and authority of Judah increased under David and Solomon, so much the more did the old jealousy and love of independence grow in Ephraim; the tribute-labors, and especially the structures which served to strengthen the dominant authority of Judah which Solomon had achieved by Ephraimites, were calculated especially to increase those feelings. Jeroboam’s attempt to raise an insurrection miscarried, but the desire for independence was not extinguished thereby. It broke out again the more violently after Solomon’s death, as there was hope of getting rid of Rebohoam more easily, who did not in the least resemble his father. The great event of the partition of the kingdom had its roots in a primitive characteristic of the tribe, which characteristic had existed over four hundred years, and now broke out at last with violence, creating a double State. Rehoboam’s answer was only the spark which fell into the powder magazine. The recent historical criticism admits the agency of the Ephraimite character in the revolt, but finds the especial and chief cause in the essential nature of the kingdom. Ewald is of this opinion (Gesch. des V. Isr. III. s. 393 sq.). The monarchy had, in its very nature, a tendency to extend its power further and further, and to restrict every other power in the nation more and more, or else to absorb it. It reached a very high stage in Solomon’s time, but it was ever growing, and it made more and more severe exactions upon the people in labor and taxation. A further strengthening and one-sided growth of the monarchy was held by the best men in Israel to be ruinous and dangerous to the ancient freedom of the people. There might have been, indeed, a way of reconciling the claims of the monarchy and of the nation without a revolution, i.e., “having what is now called a constitution drawn up, which, when well devised, is the safe-guard of the best modern Christian nations.” But there was no such remedy at hand; the heads of the tribes only assembled when a new king was to be declared. All the best of the people, and particularly the prophets, had agreed that the government could not continue as it was at the close of Solomon’s life. As the prophets had founded the kingdom, and advanced it so much by the elevation of David’s house over that of Saul, they now expected furtherance by another change of dynasty; impressed by their counsel, it was forthwith achieved in consequence of the voice of the people and the folly of Rehoboam, &c., &c. This whole mode of explanation, already adopted here and there, rests on the utterly unproved supposition that Solomon’s government constantly grew more absolute and despotic, till, at last, it seriously threatened the liberty of the people. We have not the slightest historical proof of this. Where is it said that Soloman oppressed his people, in every way, by taxation and tribute-labor? Where is it said that the prophets believed the liberties of the people to be threatened, and that they announced this publicly? How happens it that Solomon, who advanced his realm to a degree of prosperity it never before and never again enjoyed, is made to be a despot and oppressor? Just when the text has been treating exclusively of the tribute to the splendid court, it says: “Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry,” &c.; “Judah dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, from Dan to Beer-Sheba, all the days of Solomon” (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 4:25). That he demanded too much of this tribute-labor, which was customary among all ancient nations, and had been exacted before his time, there is no other evidence than the complaint of the angry revolutionary assembly of Ephraimites at Shechem, and this cannot be regarded as impartial and historical testimony. So little did Solomon interfere with the liberty of his people, that there was an unprecedented commerce with all the neighboring nations in his reign; he even allowed freedom of worship—allowed too much rather than too little liberty. This and not despotism was what the prophets apprehended danger from. There is not in the whole history of Solomon a single act that can be called despotic or tyrannical, like those of later kings, for instance, Ahab or Jehu; and yet the former is said to have ruled with such intolerable severity that the prophets and the best among the people were compelled to think of a change of government. Of all kingdoms, that of Israel should be the last to be judged from a modern political point of view. The theocratic constitution was not revoked when the human monarchy began: Jehovah continued to be the true king of Israel, and the human king was the “servant of Jehovah;” as such he had to do Jehovah’s will, not his own. There was, therefore, no such thing as absolutism, which we are told clung to this monarchy by virtue of its nature. But we cannot comprehend how any should think that the best remedy against the supposed despotism of Solomon would have been a representative government, after the pattern of the constitutions of our nineteenth century.

2. The revolt of the ten tribes from the house of David (1 Kings 12:19) is often represented as justifiable. J. D. Michaelis (Mos. Recht I. § 55) saw nothing more in it than a new capitulation of a people still free; De Wette (Beiträge I. s. 129) went further, and asserted that, “according to 1 Kings 12:0. these tribes were fully justified in what they did; they demanded fair concessions, and there is only Rehoboam’s folly to be blamed.” Duncker says (Gesch. des Alt. s. 402), “the Israelites remembered their right to choose and anoint the king.” But we find nothing said anywhere of such a national right: the law for kings (Deuteronomy 17:14 sq.) says nothing of it; it recognizes no conditions of election; and the history mentions no king except Jeroboam (1 Kings 12:20), either in Judah or Israel, who was elected by the free choice of the people. The monarchy was hereditary in Judah, and continued in David’s house till the dissolution of the kingdom; in Israel, also, the son succeeded the father, or usurpers arose who gained the throne by force; but the people never once chose the king. In the present instance, Ephraim with its confederates had no right, certainly, to reject a king who was such by birth, and to choose another by themselves alone, without Judah. Ephraim had solemnly acknowledged the brotherhood of all the twelve tribes, and had willingly submitted to David (2 Samuel 5:1 sq.); and all the tribes had acknowledged Solomon to be, in right of being David’s son, the true king of “Judah and Israel” (1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 5:5). At the great festival of the dedication they had all gathered around Solomon, who announced to them the divine promise that David’s house should never want a man to sit upon the throne of David (1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 8:24-25); they united together in a solemn bond, by a common thanksgiving sacrifice to Jehovah at the temple, which was the central point, as it were, of the kingdom, and this bond joined them all together as well as with David’s house; as the king blessed them, so, also, they blessed him (1 Kings 6:62–68). Solomon’s son was therefore the rightful heir of the throne for all the tribes, and none had a right to revolt from him. Even granted that Solomon had given his subjects cause of complaint, by exacting too much tribute-labor in the latter part of his reign, yet this did not justify any one of the tribes in breaking the bond of national union, and severing themselves from the hereditary dynasty, especially, too, as Rehoboam had not as yet shown in acts what his government would be. The revolt of the ten tribes was not brought about first by his foolish wilful answer, but the latter “only offered them a wished for opportunity to carry out their already purposed, revolt” (Keil). Hence they did not want to treat, but gave free vent to their hatred, and murdered the innocent ambassador of the king. The division can therefore be regarded as nothing else than a revolutionary act, which cannot by any means be excused, much less justified. A right of resistance lies only in cases where the chief ruler arbitrarily violates the fundamental law upon which the material and also the spiritual and moral existence of a people rests. But the rebellion is then the act of the government itself, and not of the subjects. But single grievances, even if real, can never justify revolt from lawful authority (especially when only brought forward by a part of the nation) or form sufficient ground for rebellion and deeds of violence (cf. Rothe, Theol. Ethik III. s. 977 sq.). Solomon had certainly attacked and undermined the fundamental law of Israel, by permitting and favoring idolatry, but the ten tribes made no complaint of this, but solely of the alleged excess of tribute-labor, which Judah and Benjamin shared with them, but which they did not bring forward as a grievance.

3. That Rehoboam returned an answer to the people, with which the storm that had threatened the house of David burst forth, is emphatically said (1 Kings 12:15) to have been from the Lord; and the prophecy of Ahijah (1 Kings 11:11; 1 Kings 11:31) was thereby fulfilled. At the same time the prophet Shemaiah warns them not to make war on the seceders, saying, “this thing is from the Lord.” This does not justify the conduct of the ten tribes any more than that of Rehoboam, but intimates indeed that the partition of the kingdom determined on in the counsels of God happened in such a way as to make it evident that it was the fault of Rehoboam. According to the word of Ahijah the partition appeared to have a double design: to “afflict the seed of David, but not forever” (1 Kings 11:39), to be as such a chastisement (2 Samuel 7:14); and also to afford to the inborn instinct of Ephraim for independence the opportunity of free development, yet on the indispensable condition of unchanging fidelity to the fundamental law that David had held; the express restriction was added, that David’s seed was not to be afflicted forever. We already remarked above (Hist. and Ethic. 5, on 1 Kings 11:14-43) that such a temporary division of the kingdom was not inconsistent with the higher unity of the divine monarchy. But as neither of the kingdoms adhered to that higher unity, Ephraim forsaking the law continually from the beginning, and Judah only sometimes faithful, the division became, through the guilt of both kingdoms, the germ of their destruction (Matthew 12:25). Because the higher unity was forsaken, the history of the divided kingdom is nothing but a slow process of dissolution of the human monarchy in Israel, and with it of the outward, earthly kingdom, limited by natural race and to a given land. That unity was designed, in the divine counsels, to be an eternal heavenly kingdom, an inward kingdom of God, to embrace all nations, a βασιλεία τῶν οὐρανῶν in which “Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim” (Isaiah 11:13); in which “they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all,” but shall be “one nation,” and “one king shall be king to them all” (Ezekiel 37:15-22). The fact that the partition of the kingdom, this beginning of its end, immediately followed its culmination of earthly dominion under David and Solomon, shows how frail and perishable it was; the more it approached its dissolution, the more ardent became the longing for an enduring and eternal kingdom, the more definite and significant prophecy became. Well may Witsius exclaim, referring to the above-mentioned sentence in 1 Kings 12:15 : O sapientia et occulti miranda potentia fati! quœ res omnes ita dirigit et flectit, ut tamen ipsi illuc ivisse videamur, et consiliis fatisque nostris gradum nobis struamus ad fatalem illum lapsum sive adscensum. The apostle’s exclamation about the ways and judgments of God, though universally applicable, is so especially here (Romans 11:33).

4. In the conduct of the various important personages concerned in bringing about the partition of the kingdom, all the sins and weaknesses appear which lie at the bottom of all such events; so that we behold, in this history, a reflection of every revolution in its nature and course, and it may serve as a picture of future ones in every age (cf. especially the striking treatise of Vilmar, Die Theilung des Davidsreichs. Pastoral-theol. Blätter, 1861, s. 177 bis 193), which we cited above on 1 Kings 11:4. A complete lack of religious feeling and manner is first observable in these two opposite parties; both move upon a purely outward, secular, and political-worldly soil, though in Israel the national and religious consciousness coincide principally. There had been hitherto no assembly of the whole people or of their representatives, for weighty affairs, in which the religious element had failed. When Joshua called the elders together in Shechem, before his end, “they presented themselves before God” (Joshua 24:1 sq.). When Samuel did the same at Mizpeh, he said to them, “present yourselves before the Lord” (1 Samuel 10:19). When all the tribes came to David in Hebron, after Ish-bosheth’s death, and acknowledged him as king over all Israel, they call to mind Jehovah’s word, and David “made a league with them before the Lord” (2 Samuel 5:1-3). When Solomon assembled all the heads of the tribes and the elders at the dedication, the ceremony not only began with divine worship, but ended by the “king and all Israel with him offering sacrifice before the Lord” (1 Kings 8:1; 1 Kings 8:5; 1 Kings 8:62). In the present instance, however, nothing was done “before the Lord,” but everything was done without Him. No one, neither one of the tribe-heads nor Jeroboam nor Rehoboam nor his counsellors and companions, inquire after Him. No one names Him. That He is their true sovereign before whom they must all bow does not occur to them. They think only which of the two parties should rule the other. This conduct reveals a state of things which always and everywhere precedes revolutions; which are made ready inevitably when, in a nation and kingdom, high and low alike ask no longer for the holy and living God, and where infidelity and indifference have entered. The breaking of religious ties brings with it, sooner or later, that of the State also; hence we generally find, in the present day, that those who plan the overthrow of the government, as a rule, seek also to undermine the church foundations.—When we look particularly at the conduct of the people of the ten tribes we see that they had all forgotten the great benefits and blessing they had received through the house of David, especially during the forty years of Solomon’s prosperous reign; they forgot that each had dwelt securely under his vine and fig-tree as long as Solomon lived, that they had eaten and drunken and been merry; they only thought of the dispute about tribute-labor, hence ingratitude and discontent. They agreed to go to Shechem instead of Jerusalem, and only to do homage under certain conditions; this was already mutiny and rebellion. Hereupon they called a man who had lifted his hand against Solomon, and proved himself a foe of David’s house, to be their speaker and leader; with him at their head, they went to the king in the consciousness that they formed the majority of the nation, and laid before him their complaint of excessive labor and want of freedom. When their stormy petition was rejected, there arose wild and scornful cries, and a regular rebellion broke out; they rushed in blind rage at the innocent mediator for the king, and murder him, whereupon the king has to flee in great haste; and they conclude by making their leader and spokesman king. If, on the other hand, we contemplate the conduct of the government, we find everything here, too, that was calculated to call forth rebellion and insurrection instead of avoiding or appeasing it. First, utter ignorance of the feeling among the people, and therefore no sort of precaution for the threatened danger; the king goes thoughtlessly to the discontented people, thus falling into the snare set for him. When surprised in Shechem with the demand made, he is irresolute, asks time for reflection, and keeps the people in suspense, which must only have increased their excitement. He then consults his immediate attendants; the elders advise him to descend from the throne, for the time being, and to humor the people; the young men advise him to the opposite course. Thus there was want of unity in the higher circles, and views in direct antagonism one over against the other. The high-sounding advice of the courtiers pleased the weak and headstrong monarch best, and he delivered an answer which supposes a power which no longer existed, and shows equal folly, arrogance, and contempt of the people. Thereupon the storm broke loose, and Rehoboam then wished to make concessions, and to treat with them. But instead of going himself courageously to face the excited throng, this arrogant and imperious man sent an old and faithful servant to be exposed to their rage. It was “too late;” Adoram was killed, and he himself had to flee in haste. When such perverted ways, faults, and sins are found in the government, the way for revolution is already formed, and when it has once begun, soldiers are as useless as concessions; what is lost by a person’s own fault is lost forever.

5. The appearance of the prophet Shemaiah after the partition seems like the rising of the sun after a dark, stormy night. Whilst sin and wickedness reign in both parties, and none of them cares about the living God, “the man of God” appears with undaunted courage; armed only with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, he confronts the blinded, wilful king and an army of 180,000 men. He commands them in the name of the Lord to lay down their arms, and to go home; standing on the rock of his strength (Psalms 62:8), he calls to the surging waves, Thus far and no farther! and no one dares to offer opposition. Thus the prophets again come forth in majesty, as the admonishing and avenging conscience of Israel, as the divine corrective of all human actions; and this shows, too, how erroneous the assertion is that the partition of the kingdom was the result of a series of conflicts that went on, especially under Solomon, between the two powers of the monarchy and of the prophets, which existed side by side in Israel. It was not monarchy and the prophets which were in conflict, but Ephraim and the house of David. Both these took purely secular and political ground, and they had no other aim than to lord it over each other. The prophets take a stand-point above both; and the prophet speaks and contends for the divine monarchy in Judah as well as in Israel. As for the rest, Judah appears here in a much more favorable light than Ephraim; it faithfully adheres to David’s house, and knows nothing of complaint of tribute-labor, which had borne as heavily on it as on Ephraim; while Ephraim, which well knew the promise given to David’s house, disregards that promise completely. Judah, knowing the word of the Lord by the prophet, rises against his brethren at the call of his king; but Ephraim listens to a Jeroboam, and if a prophet in Shechem had warned them against insurrection he would doubtless have fared no better than Adoram.

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 12:1-20. The departure of Israel from the house of David: 1. The grievances. 2. The decision. 3. The rebellion.—The division of the kingdom. 1. A consequence of manifold sins (of Solomon, Jeroboam, Rehoboam). 2. A divine dispensation (for their humiliation and chastisement, and for a direction toward the heavenly eternal kingdom, v. Ethical).—The sources and causes of the rebellion. 1. In general (estrangement from God, indifferentism, and unbelief). 2. In particular, these sins on the part of the people (Proverbs 14:34), and on the part of the princes (Proverbs 20:28). Where prince and people fear God, there will be no rebellion; but where no covenant with God exists, all human considerations fall in pieces.

1 Kings 12:1-5. The assemblage of the people at Shechem. 1. Who were present (the ten tribes with Jeroboam, returned from Egypt, at their head, ostensibly to do homage, but really to stir up revolt; the assembling together was unlawful, unbidden, and arbitrary. Warning from such courses. Proverbs 24:21-22). What the people sought. (Murmurs and complaints against the pretended oppression of Solomon, instead of gratitude for great benefits, and the well-being of the State. These complaints were rather a pretext than the truth, and were an exaggeration of the grievances; they demanded not the maintenance of the law and the covenant; but merely material elevation, less labor, and more outward freedom and independence. Admonition of 1 Peter 2:17-19).—Preiswerk (in the periodical, Morgenland, 1839): The assembling together of great idle crowds in a small space is a device of all demagogues; these crowds mutually excite each other, masses of men, like-minded, inspire each other with confidence, peaceful councils vanish, men become accustomed to the shouts of the insurgents, imbibe their principles, venture no contradiction against the outburst of passion, especially when swelled by numbers, and, thus inflamed, are dragged onwards in paths from which later repentance can never bring them back.

1 Kings 12:1. It is never advisable to go where men are assembling themselves together, who testify by their choice of a meeting-place that they have no good end in view. (Shechem recalls the story in Judges 9:0.)

1 Kings 12:2-3. Experience teaches that those who have once set up an opposition to legitimate authority will ever persist in their resolve, even if their design fail or is pardoned; they only await another opportunity to carry out their plans; therefore they should never be trusted.

1 Kings 12:3-4. Rebellious people easily seek and find in public circumstances means which they amplify and exaggerate in order to give an appearance of justice to their wickedness, and to have some pretext for their criminal designs.—Cramer: It is an universal fact that men exclaim more concerning oppression than concerning godlessness and other sins; are more careful for the body than for the soul; and, so they are free in action, give little heed to the soul’s nurture (Exodus 16:3).—A people which prescribes to its lawful sovereign the conditions of its obedience to him, and directs him how to govern, assumes to itself royal authority, and overturns the appointed order of God, thus rushing surely on to its own destruction.

1 Kings 12:5. A prince who, upon his accession to the throne, requires time to decide if his rule shall be mild and merciful or harsh and despotic, cannot have assumed his high responsible post in the fear and love of God; therefore he must expect no divine blessing. It is well and good, indeed, in all weighty matters to take time for reflection, but in time of sudden danger, rapid, firm decision is equally necessary. One accustomed to walk in God’s ways will at such times take no step which will afterward cause him bitter repentance.

1 Kings 12:6-11. Rehoboam holds a council. 1. With whom? (With his own servants, old and young, but not with the Lord his God, and with his servants. In difficult and grave matters we should not neglect to take counsel with men, but chiefly should we go to Him for counsel of whom it may be said: He has the way of all ways, and never fails in counsel, and “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, &c. (James 1:5). For, saith the Lord, Woe to the rebellious children who take counsel, but not of me, &c. (Isaiah 30:1). if He sit not in the council, in vain do young and old advise. Had Jeroboam sought light from above in those three days, and prayed as once his father did (1 Kings 3:9), or as Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:19), or entreated like Jehoshaphat (2 Kings 3:11), then he would not have been like a reed shaken by the wind, but his heart would have been strong.) 2. The advice given him. (Neither counsel was divine, but both merely human (Matthew 16:23). The old men, out of their fear and apprehension, advised: renounce for the present thy royal prerogative, and bow before the will of the people; later thou canst act quite differently. This advice ran counter to his pride and despotism, so he refused the counsel of the old men. Through flattery and insolence combined, the young men counselled a course actually inhuman, viz.: to abuse his royal prerogative, to care nothing for his people and their wishes, but simply to treat them with violence. This advice suited him well, because it corresponded with his rough, harsh, selfish and violent character. But this produced the exact reverse of what he wished and hoped. When you receive conflicting counsels from men, apply to both the test of God’s word, for: Psalms 19:8; Psalms 119:104 sq.) 1 Kings 12:6. It is the first privilege and duty of a king to seek to surround himself with men, who, fearing no man, either high or low, and regardless of their own profit or advantage, shall advise him as befits men responsible before a just and holy God. One such man alone outweighs whole hosts of soldiers, for: Proverbs 20:28. 1 Kings 12:7. A king who refuses to be a “servant of God” readily finds himself in a situation where he is compelled to be a servant of the people. The splendor of majesty is enhanced by benevolence, goodness, and mercy, but never by timid yielding and submission to the popular will. 1 Kings 12:8. Where the counsels of the aged are rejected, be it in a kingdom or in a house, and those only of the youthful followed, there men pursue an unhallowed path. For to a true wisdom of life experience is necessary, and this youth cannot have (Leviticus 19:32; Sir 8:11). Those who grow up with us have, unconsciously and involuntarily, a vast influence over our modes of thought and views of life, therefore parents must have a watchful eye over the intimacies of their children. 1 Kings 12:10-11. A vaunting speech is by no means a proof of courage; the more boastful a man’s speech the less resolute he will be in peril and temptation; a truly strong, firm, and calm man is silent. Time-serving and flattery are most dangerous for a prince; they wear the garb of fidelity and devotion, and in reality are the greatest treachery. Chiefly distrust those who counsel thee to do what gratifies thy vanity, thy selfishness, and thine own desires, and costs thee no sacrifice.—Osiander: One should rather distrust all harsh judgments, because they accord chiefly with the disposition of the flesh, and not of the spirit, which inclines to mercy.

1 Kings 12:12-15. The answer of the king to the people. (a) It is hard—not merely a refusal, but imperious, tyrannical, unbecoming in any sovereign, but especially one who ought to be the servant of the compassionate and merciful God, with whom is great truth and loving-kindness (Exodus 34:6). Authority is the handmaid of God, to thee for good (Romans 13:4), and not a terror. Government is not built upon whips and scourges, but upon justice, love, and confidence; that rule alone is thoroughly right where “mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalms 85:11). How entirely different is David’s example of sovereignty (Psalms 101:0.). (b) A rash and inconsiderate counsel, that of the young men, throwing oil on the flames instead of quenching them, and exciting uproar and revolt instead of disposing to submission and obedience. Passion always blinds. When the heart is perverted the head is likewise dulled, and those who are generally shrewd become unwise and unreasonable; for it is not the head which rules the heart, but, on the contrary, the inclinations and desires of the heart are stronger than the thoughts of the head (Proverbs 15:1: 30:33; James 1:19-20; Ephesians 5:15-17). “He that liveth many days, let him keep his tongue from evil,” &c. (Psalms 34:13). 1 Kings 12:14. Midway between weak concessions and timid neutrality on the one hand, and selfish persistence in presumptive rights on the other, lies a course always pointed out by the Lord to those who bow before Him, pray to Him for wisdom, and long earnestly to do what pleases Him alone. Not only do great lords give harsh answers, but likewise petty rulers; those who moan and complain most bitterly against the tyranny of the great are frequently the greatest tyrants in a small way; they perceive the mote in their neighbor’s eye, but not the beam in their own.—Starke: The voice of the King of kings comes to us utterly unlike that of Rehoboam; therefore should we listen the more submissively and obediently to it.—Würt. Summ: The Most High is ever at hand to change the darkest prospects of the children of men to a happy termination, and the accomplishment of His all holy will, even as Joseph said to his brethren (Genesis 1:20). God disposes not the thoughts of man to folly and sin, but brings them to judgment by their very perverseness, and thus makes it serve to carry out His own designs.

1 Kings 12:16-19. The rebellion, (a) Its causes, sin, and folly, in high and low places: amongst the people, ingratitude, jealousy, envy, hatred, and thirst for independence: with the king, tyranny, violence, and folly. (b) Its consequences. (Disunion, which was in no wise advantageous, but the beginning of every species of ill-fortune, and of the final dissolution of the kingdom, followed deeds of violence. murder, and death-struggles. A people in rebellion is like a fierce dog unchained. The evil consequences of rebellion are often felt for a century.)

1 Kings 12:16. As is the question. so is the answer. He who makes an unprincipled speech must not wonder if he receive a like reply. The same people who once came to David and said: See, we are thy bone and thy flesh, thou hast led us, thou shalt be our king (2 Samuel 5:1-2), now said: We have no part in David; what is the shepherd’s son to us? This is the way of the multitude. To-day they cry: Hosanna, blessed be he who cometh in the name of the Lord! To-morrow it is, “Crucify him, we will not that he reign over us!” To-day, if fortune smile, they are fawning and bland, to-morrow, if misfortune threaten, they cry: “Look to thyself.” Their cry is: We will be free, and servants of no man—not seeing that they are the blind tools of one or more leaders, who seek to reign over them. With the house of David, Israel flung aside the great promise (2 Samuel 7:10-16; 2 Samuel 23:5), which depended on that house. For us has come that Son of David, whose kingdom shall have no end (Luke 1:32 sq.). Let us hold steadfastly by Him, and not be led astray by the uproar of the world: “We will have no part in him.” He will finally destroy all enemies under his feet. Thus went Israel to his tents, but not as formerly, blest by the king and blessing him, rejoicing over the goodness of the Lord to David, and to his people Israel (1 Kings 8:66). He who has not a good conscience cannot return in peace.

1 Kings 12:18. The people desired freedom, but a tree of liberty, watered with innocent blood, can only bear poison fruit. He who asks nothing of God can only lead others to folly,—he who cannot stand in the gap can never protect others. It is a judgment of God when a monarch, instead of being able to repose in the bosom of any one of his subjects, must needs fly before him to save his life. To yield to superior force is no disgrace, but shameful is the flight which is the result of arrogance and overbearing pride.

1 Kings 12:19-20. The great majority fell away, and the small minority remained faithful; the first was ruined and had no future; from the latter came forth the One before whom every knee bowed down, and whom every tongue acknowledged to be the Lord (Matthew 2:6; Philippians 2:11). In the kingdom of God there is no question of majorities and minorities, but it is simply, are we steadfast and faithful unto death? The pretended deliverers of the masses well know how to manage, so that they will become rulers of the people; they allow themselves to be summoned, and apparently persuaded to the very object which was the sole aim of their efforts.

1 Kings 12:21. What Rehoboam had lost through insolence and weakness, through wickedness and folly, he now sought to regain by violence and battle; instead of humbling himself beneath the All-powerful hand of God, he is haughty and depends upon his own arm of flesh. The natural heart of man is a froward and timorous thing (Jeremiah 17:9), without safe resting-place or firm support, now buoyed up, now cast down, the football of every storm of fortune. But blessed is the man whose trust and confidence are in the Lord. It is a precious thing, &c. (Hebrews 13:9). Faith is the victory, &c. (1 John 5:4.) In the renewed heart is no pride and no fear.

1 Kings 12:22-24. The word of the Lord to the king and to the host; (a) the command: Ye shall not, &c.; (b) the cause of the commandment: For this thing is from me; (c) the obedience to the command: And they hearkened, &c. The lives and property of subjects are not to be used to compensate for the sins and follies of their rulers. Civil wars are the most unnatural, and likewise the fiercest and bitterest; he who stirs up strife between brethren commits a crime which never goes unpunished.—Shemaiah, a type of the Lord’s servants. He is a man of God, and as such he brings good tidings of peace (Isaiah 52:7); he has no other arms than the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17); with His word he comes, strong and fearless, before the king and his whole host (Acts 4:20; Acts 9:15). It is said here of hundreds of thousands: “They hearkened to the word of the Lord, and returned, &c.” How many thousands to-day hear this word, but, burying it beneath cares, riches, and the pride of life, live on without obedience and without repentance, bringing forth no fruit (Luke 8:14).—Würt. Summ.: We see here with what great might the God of Truth maintains his word. By the prophet Ahijah he announced to Jeroboam that he should rule over ten tribes of Israel: that is accomplished here. He has promised to leave one tribe to the house of David: that is accomplished here. He promised to Ephraim or to his father Joseph, that kings should proceed from them (Genesis 49:0; Deuteronomy 33:0.), and that is fulfilled here, since Jeroboam becomes king through Ephraim. Thus nothing remains unfulfilled of all that God has spoken, promised, or threatened. Solomon and Rehoboam strove to prevent the fulfilment of God’s word in Jeroboam, for which purpose Solomon planned to kill Jeroboam, and Rehoboam assembled a great army against him, but all in vain. Therefore let all men believe and seek after the word of God, and not strive to resist it (Luke 21:33).

[F. D. Maurice: “He (Jeroboam)did not trust the living God. He thought not that his kingdom stood upon a divine foundation, but that it was to be upheld by certain divine props and sanctions. The two doctrines seem closely akin; many regard them as identical; in truth there is a whole heaven between them. The king who believes that his kingdom has a divine foundation confesses his own subjection and responsibility to an actual living ruler. The king who desires to surround himself with divine sanctions, would fain make himself supreme, knows that he cannot, and therefore seeks help from the fear men have of an invisible power, in which they have ceased to believe. He wants a God as the support of his authority; what God, he cares very little.”—E. H.]


1 Kings 12:2; 1 Kings 12:2.—[It is better to omit the italicized words of it, which are not in the Heb. and which must refer to the Assembly at Shechem, whereas what Jeroboam heard of was the death of Solomon, as is expressed in the Vulg. See the Exeg. Com. The Vat. Sept. omits here the whole of 1 Kings 12:2 and the greater part of 1 Kings 12:3, having given the substance of them (with some addition) at 1 Kings 11:43. The Alex. Sept. follows the Heb. Our anthor, in his translation, has omitted the part of 1 Kings 12:2 enclosed in brackets, evidently by an inadvertence.

1 Kings 12:2; 1 Kings 12:2.—Instead of וַיֵּשֶׁב בְּמִצְרָיִם must be read, with 2 Chronicles 10:2, וַיָּשָׁב מִמִּצְרָיִם See the comment. [The text may be preserved without change (for which the Vulg. is the only authority) by considering the statement that Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt as merely the completion of the statement of his flight: he had fled to Egypt and remained there. The change was proposed by Dathe, but is rejected by Maurer and by Keil.

1 Kings 12:11; 1 Kings 12:11.—עַקְרַבִּים, scorpions, flagelli genus globulis plumbeis cum aculeis incurvis munitum, a scorpii similitudine dictum (Gesen. Thes. 11, 1062).

1 Kings 12:12; 1 Kings 12:12.—[The Sept. omits here the significant mention of Jeroboam.

1 Kings 12:16; 1 Kings 12:16.—[The Heb., Sept., Chald. and Syr. have the pronoun in the singular, thy tents. In the next clanse the Sept. translates νῦν βόσκε τὸν οἶκόν σου, Δαυίδ.]

1 Kings 12:18; 1 Kings 12:18.—[The Sept., Syr., and Arab. read Adoniram.

1 Kings 12:20; 1 Kings 12:20.—[The Sept. here inserts “and Benjamin.”

1 Kings 12:21; 1 Kings 12:21.—[The Vat. (not Alex.) Sept. reduces this number to 120,000.

1 Kings 12:22; 1 Kings 12:22.—[Many MSS. followed by the Sept., Vulg., Chald., and Syr. read here יְהוָֹה instead of אֱלֹהִים.]

1 Kings 12:24; 1 Kings 12:24.—[The Vat. (not Alex.) Sept. here inserts a passage quite equal in length to the whole chapter, containing many particulars whose utterly unhistorical character may be seen from the opening statement that Rehoboam was sixteen years old at his accession and reigned twelve years. Cf. 1 Kings 14:21.—F. G.]

Verses 25-33

B.—The establishment of the kingdom of Israel by Jeroboam

1 Kings 12:25-33

25Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. 26And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: 27if this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord [Jehovah] at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord,11 even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. 28Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you12 to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods,13 O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 29And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Daniel 3:0; Daniel 3:00And this thing became [was14] a sin: for the people went to worship before the one,15 even unto Dan.16 31And he made a house17 of high places, and made priests of the lowest [mass18] of the people, which were not of the sons of Leviticus 3:0; Leviticus 3:02And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered19 upon the altar. So20 did he in Beth-el, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Beth-el the priests of the high places which he had made. 33So he offered9 upon the altar which he had made in Beth-el the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart21; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered9 upon the altar, and burnt incense.

Exegetical and Critical

1 Kings 12:25.—Then Jeroboam built Shechem. The first thing which Jeroboam undertook after his accession was the building of fortresses to protect his realm. בָּנָה means fortified here, as Shechem and Penuel were built long before. He chose Shechem immediately as his residence (וישׁב), no doubt, for the same reason that the ten tribes had assembled there (see on 1 Kings 12:1). It does not follow from וַיֵּצֵא, that he at once removed to Penuel (Ewald, Thenius), for it only says: he built, and it is not added that he lived there. Penuel, too, did not belong to the tribe of Ephraim, but was in Gad, beyond Jordan, according to some, northward, and others, southward of Jabbok. There was a tower there formerly, which Gideon destroyed (Judges 8:17). Jeroboam can scarcely be supposed to have fortified the place on account of the caravan road to Damascus passing by it (Keil), or to subdue the Ammonites and Moabites again (Duncker), but to secure the territory beyond Jordan against any attacks from Judah. There is no doubt that he built these fortifications by tribute-labor, like Solomon (1 Kings 9:15 sq.); the “grievous service” (1 Kings 12:4) did not, therefore, cease under him, and the complaint against Rehoboam appears all the more like a pretext.

1 Kings 12:26-28. And Jeroboam said in his heart, &c. 1 Kings 12:26. Jeroboam did not seek to establish his kingdom outwardly only, but also inwardly; and to attach the people permanently to himself. The political union with Judah was indeed broken, but the religious one still remained. The people still went up to the yearly feasts at the central place of worship in Jerusalem; this practice seems, from 2 Chronicles 11:16 sq., to have extended even, so that Jeroboam became anxious lest his people should turn to Rehoboam and dethrone him. He therefore sought to break this bond also. We can scarcely admit that וַיִּוָּעַץ 1 Kings 12:28 ought to be supplemented thus: “With his counsellors or the heads of the people, who had helped to make him king” (Keil), for the text would certainly not have passed over so important a circumstance as that the representatives of the people concurred with him in changing the place of worship. He reflected about it alone, and came to the following resolution—Vulgate: Et excogitato consilio fecit duos vitulos; Dereser: “it occurred to him to make two golden calves.” Two golden calves, i.e., young bulls, as appears from Psalms 106:19 sq.; they were molten (1 Kings 14:9), probably of brass, and then overlaid with gold (Isaiah 40:19). The expression רַב־לָכֶם is never used in the sense of: it is desiring too much from you; i.e. it is too hard for you, but: it is (now) enough, i. e. you have gone up to Jerusalem long enough, cease doing so. The Sept. translates ἱκανούσθω, the Vulgate has: Nolite ultra adscendere in Jerusalem. Cf. Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 2:3; Ezekiel 44:6; 1Ki 19:4; 2 Samuel 24:16. The words, Behold thy god(s) which, &c., are exactly the same as the people used when setting up the golden calf in the wilderness (Exodus 32:4-8) and refer unmistakably to them. They are not plural (thy gods which, &c.) any more than when used in the former case, for they only refer to one calf, and Nehemiah (1 Kings 9:18) uses them in the singular; אלהים, moreover, is construed with the plural of the predicate (cf.2 Sam. 1 Kings 7:23 with 1 Chronicles 17:21). It is certain that Jeroboam did not wish to introduce the worship of two or more gods; but the plural being used in this place may indicate that “the knowledge of the unity of God is lost in every form of nature-worship” (Von Gerlach), and that image-worship is closely related to polytheism (Ewald). The bringing them up out of Egypt was God’s act, by which he made Israel a separate nation, creating it, as it were, and choosing it at the same time for his own, from out all peoples. This was the real historical proof that the Almighty God, who has no equal either in heaven or earth, was Israel’s God; therefore the God who brought Israel out of Egypt is contrasted, as the only true God, with the vain gods of the heathens (Joshua 24:17; Judges 2:1; Judges 2:12; Judges 6:13). The people Israel only knew him to be God who brought them out of Egypt; and should they worship the golden calf as their God, they must, as Aaron and Jeroboam did, before everything else, attribute to it the deliverance out of Egypt. We cannot endorse the ordinary explanation, that Jeroboam meant to say: Non est nova religio, hoc cultu jam olim patres nostri in deserto usi sunt auctore ipso Aharone (Seb. Schmidt); for if the history of the golden calf were known to the people, and Jeroboam reminded them of it, he must also have known that Jehovah’s wrath waxed hot on account of that sin, that Moses ground the calf to powder, and that all the worshippers were destroyed (Exodus 32:10; 20:28). Nothing could be more ill-advised than an appeal to this event, and it would have been the direct opposite of any recommendation of the new worship. It appears rather that the narrative, giving as it does Jeroboam’s praise of the golden calves in the words the people had used at the sight of the golden calves in the wilderness, wishes to convey the idea that those images were a renewal of the sin committed in the wilderness, and that, therefore, Jeroboam’s undertaking would, sooner or later, have a similar end. 1 Kings 12:30 also implies this, and 2 Kings 17:7 sq. expressly declares it.

1 Kings 12:29-30. And he set the one in Bethel, &c., 1 Kings 12:29. Bethel was on the southern, and Dan on the northern boundary of the kingdom. The situation of these places explains why Jeroboam chose them. He wished to make things easy for the people; the northern tribes could readily reach one place of worship, and the southern tribes the other, and they would so much the sooner become habituated to the new regulation. At the same time also it was in opposition to the Judah-centralizing of worship. This was another reason for having two calves instead of one. It is generally thought that he chose both places, because they had been regarded before as sacred places for worship. This may have influenced him in choosing Bethel, but scarcely in respect of Dan, for the narrative in Judges 18:0. by no means proves that the latter place was looked on with respect by the people as a place of worship. Had Jeroboam sought only sacred places, there were several (e. g. Shiloh) that were much more esteemed as such than Dan. This thing became a sin, 1 Kings 12:30. Jeroboam was guilty of great sin in making images of oxen, contrary to the fundamental law, and in setting them up in two places remote from each other, and thus destroying the unity of worship which has been the bond of union for the whole people. The text means what is afterwards always spoken of as “the sin of Jeroboam, who made Israel to sin” (1Ki 14:16; 1 Kings 15:26; 1 Kings 15:30; 1Ki 15:34; 1 Kings 16:2; 1 Kings 16:19; 1Ki 16:26; 1 Kings 16:31; 1 Kings 21:22; 1Ki 22:53; 2 Kings 3:3; 2Ki 10:29; 2 Kings 10:31; 2 Kings 13:2; 2 Kings 13:6; 2 Kings 13:11; 2Ki 14:24; 2 Kings 15:9; 2 Kings 15:18; 2Ki 15:24; 2 Kings 15:28; 2 Kings 17:21-22; 2 Kings 23:15). The people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.לִפְנֵי הָאֶחַד clearly refers to the הָאֶחַד twice repeated in 1 Kings 12:29, and cannot therefore be translated as Ewald gives it: “the people, as it were one man:” neither does it mean that the people only went to one image, that at Dan, 1 Kings 13:1. “Unto Dan,” moreover, cannot be joined to הָעָם and translated, “the people unto Dan; i.e., the people in the whole kingdom as far as Dan” (Keil). The sentence is evidently abbreviated, and לפני האחד is only put once instead of twice, because the repetition after the double אחד in 1 Kings 12:29 is understood; “האחד is alter here in the sense of alteruter” (Cassel). The people went to both, even to the distant Dan. Vulgate: ibat enim populus ad adorandum vitulum usque in Dan.

1 Kings 12:31-32. And he made an house of high places, &c., 1 Kings 12:31. For the so-called high places, see above on 1 Kings 3:2. As the “high places” in 2 Kings 23:15 is simply הַבָּמָה, and the high places are contrasted with Jehovah’s house in 1 Kings 3:1-2, the word here certainly does not mean a temple, properly speaking, but probably a kind of cell for the image. Ewald makes it out “a splendid temple,” and says: “this temple evidently lasted many years and probably rivalled that at Jerusalem; later too, this temple was regarded as the great sanctuary of the kingdom.” We find not a single word of all this in the Scripture, however. Jeroboam made priests of the מִקְצוֹת of the people; this does not mean, from the lowest of the people (Luther), but, from all classes of them (Genesis 19:4; Ezekiel 33:2; Jeremiah 51:31); he made any one that wished a priest. Thus he broke the law which gave the right to the tribe of Levi alone (Numbers 16:0). He did this either because he wanted to abolish the institution of the Levitical priesthood, or because the Levites and priests, not willing to participate in the service of the golden calves, left the kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:13). And Jeroboam ordained a feast, 1 Kings 12:32. חָּג alone, or הֶחָג signifies the feast of tabernacles, because it was the greatest and most frequented of the yearly feasts (the feast of harvest, cf. on 1 Kings 8:2). This feast fell on the seventh month, as the law commanded (Leviticus 23:34; 34:41). Jeroboam changed the time to prevent the ten tribes meeting the other two, or having any intercourse with them. He fixed it in the eighth month, because the northern and more distant tribes would thus have time to complete their harvest, and could more easily take the journey to Bethel, where he himself also kept the feast (we need not say that the harvest was later in the northern than the southern parts; see Thenius on the place). The feasts were always announced beforehand (Leviticus 23:4); if this were done after the feast at Jerusalem was over, it could not possibly be celebrated there. Jeroboam did not observe the same day of the month, the 15th, “on account of the weak, who were offended at his innovations” (Keil), for in that case he would have kept it a month sooner, but he did so because the months and weeks were counted by the new and full moons, and the 15th was the day of the full moon. Thus there was simply a reason derived from the calendar why that day was retained.

1 Kings 12:33. And he offered upon the altar, &c. וַיַּעַל עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ three times in 1 Kings 12:32-33 cannot be translated (as Thenius gives them) once (1 Kings 12:32) by: “he sacrificed upon the altar,” and two other times (1 Kings 12:33) by: “he went to the altar;” they must mean the same each time. עלה means here, as usual, to go up, to mount; the Sept. correctly gives ἀνέβη three times, the Vulgate has ascendens 1 Kings 12:32, and ascendit twice, 1 Kings 12:33. The altar had a raised part in the middle, to which an ascent [incline?—E. H.] led up (Sym. des Mos. Kult. I. s. 480). It is clear that יעל cannot be translated every time, as Luther, De Wette, and Keil give it, he sacrificed, for in 1 Kings 12:32 it is distinctly distinguished from זָבַח, and in 1 Kings 12:33לְהַקְטִיר is added at the end; this does not mean: and he offered incense (De Wette), or while he offered incense (Philippson), but only to offer incense; there is no sense in: he sacrificed to offer incense. The first יעל, 1 Kings 12:32, means, that Jeroboam took part in the feast; the second signifies especially his presence at the first feast in Bethel, and the third is only to be connected with the second, on account of the long intermediary clause in 1 Kings 12:33, joining להקטיר with it, and so leading on to להקטיר 1 Kings 13:1. In fact 1 Kings 12:33 forms the transition to the next section chap. 13., which is evidently derived from another source, and relates what happened at the celebration of the festival at Bethel. Jeroboam ascended the altar to burn sacrifice, and just as he was about to do so, a man of God came, &c. (1 Kings 13:1). What 1 Kings 12:33 repeats from 1 Kings 12:32, as well as the words, “which he had devised of his own heart,” shows the writer’s intention, i.e., to display the arbitrary nature of Jeroboam’s proceedings, which called forth the occurrence of chap, 1 Kings 13:1 sq.

Historical and Ethical

1. The religious institutions which, next to the fortifications, served to establish Jeroboam’s kingdom are of the greatest importance, for they formed the real and lasting wall of separation between the two kingdoms Israel and Judah, that existed side by side for hundreds of years. Through these institutions the division mentioned in the above section became an incurable schism for all future generations, thus determining the whole of the after-history of the people. To understand it thoroughly in all its bearings, we must, at the outset, take into consideration Jeroboam’s point of view, and the motives which impelled him. The history makes him utter these himself clearly enough in 1 Kings 12:26-27; they were of a purely political nature. He took those measures from no religious convictions, not to do away with abuses, in short, not for the sake of God and conscience, but to secure to himself and his dynasty the dominion over the newly founded kingdom, and to withdraw it forever from the house of David. He well knew that a political separation without a religious one too would not be lasting with a people whose distinct existence from other nations only depended on their common religious basis. To introduce a completely new religion, which should displace the faith of their fathers, would have been very dangerous to his dominion; so he thought of modifying it in such particulars as he was sure would be agreeable to the people, who were disposed to build a strong, impregnable wall of separation between Israel and Judah. All the kings of Israel inherited the principle on which Jeroboam acted, however much the dynasty changed, until the dissolution of the kingdom. We have here, then, the type of that political absolutism which makes the national religion subservient to the interests of a dynasty, which holds that the secular power is justified in prescribing the faith and form of worship for the subjects. This absolutism is found not only in monarchies but in republics—among crowned heads as among democrats—it can be traced through the entire history of the world, and has appeared in Christendom as Cæsaro-papism. In Israel the prophets opposed it, and as it was firmly adhered to from the beginning in that kingdom, we find, accordingly, the prophets were engaged in a perpetual struggle with it.

2. The germ of all the changes Jeroboam wrought was the erection of two golden calves. They were not actual idols, i.e., images that were supposed to have real connection with the divinity they represented, as among the heathens (cf. my treatise, Der Salomonische Tempel, s. 270 sq.), but symbols of Jehovah, the God of Israel; the whole history of Israel shows that Jeroboam did not intend to introduce idolatry or polytheism. The God who had brought Israel out of Egypt, thus showing Himself to be the true God (cf. Cassel, König Jeroboam, s. 6), was to remain, but he did not wish Him to appear to have His throne and dwelling-place in Jerusalem alone, but also in the new kingdom, and to be visibly present there. He wishes to attach the people to his kingdom by a visible representation of Jehovah. But this visible representation was in direct opposition to the fundamental Mosaic law, which just as expressly forbids the making an image of Jehovah, as the worshipping of other gods beside Him (Exodus 20:3-4). If God be one, and everything in heaven and earth, and in the water under the earth, only his creature, it follows necessarily that He can have no similitude; nothing out of Him can represent Him. Every image is a practical denial of his incomparable and therefore invisible being, an untruth which, as such, can never make Him known, but, on the contrary, destroys the knowledge of Him and leads to idolatry. For the nearer man comes to the life of nature the less power he has to abstract himself from the natural and visible, and to comprehend the spiritual and invisible by itself, i.e., to distinguish the sign from the thing signified. If God be worshipped in an image, it is scarcely possible to avoid worshipping the image itself as God, hence there is but a short step from a representation of God to idolatry, which again, in spite of everything, leads to polytheism (Romans 1:23). This is why the Mosaic fundamental law places the prohibition of every likeness of God in immediate juxtaposition against that of idolatry. To violate this command was to lay the axe at the root of the tree of spiritual life planted in the chosen people. This was “the sin of Jeroboam, wherewith he made Israel to sin.” When he sought to give his kingdom durability by erecting images, contrary to the condition so emphatically laid before him by Ahijah, namely, keeping Jehovah’s laws (1 Kings 11:38), he brought this very germ of destruction and dissolution into it; this our writer expressly notices in his account of the fall of the kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:7 sq.). The question whether the Old-Testament law against every representation of God extends unconditionally to the New-Testament economy, has, as is well known, been answered variously. While the reformed church stretches the Old-Testament law still further, and in contradiction with the Mosaic worship, which consisted wholly in symbols, rejects every symbol and representation in the churches, the Lutheran and Roman Catholic churches not only allow representations of Him who walked on earth in the form of a servant, but of God himself, only claiming that they be not worshipped or prayed to. Though we do not approve of an exaggerated spiritualism, yet the representations of God as an invisible being are of very questionable worth, and should at least not be placed in buildings for public worship. Cf. Isaiah 40:18; 1 Timothy 6:16.

3. It is almost universally acknowledged that Jeroboam’s long residence in Egypt (1 Kings 11:40; 1 Kings 12:2) led him to choose images of bulls to represent Jehovah, and that there was reference to the Egyptian cultus of Apis and Mnevis. But we have the clearest evidence of the contrary. The images were to represent (according to 1 Kings 12:28), that God who “brought Israel out of Egypt,” i.e., out of the “house of bondage,” from service to an idolatrous people, by great judgments on the latter, even the destruction of their entire army, and had separated them as from all nations, so especially from Egypt (Exodus 6:6; Exodus 7:5; 1 Kings 8:51-53). To choose a specifically Egyptian divinity in order to represent this God would have been the greatest contradiction; for it would have meant so much as: the God who overthrew the Egyptians and brought you out of Egypt was an Egyptian deity; but the clause, “who brought thee out of Egypt,” contains the most emphatic opposition to any Egyptian idol. Had the bull-images of Jeroboam been borrowed from Egypt, we should find other traces of Egyptian worship in that of the ten tribes, but none are to be found. All the gods that were worshipped by them, or afterwards by Judah, were without exception those of anterior Asia. Besides this, Apis and Mnevis were different gods, while Jeroboam wished to make symbols of one and the same deity; and, moreover, they were not images, but living idols, belonging to the Egyptian animal worship, which had always been despised in Israel, and looked on as an abomination (Exodus 8:26). The material and the workmanship of the golden calves remind us of anterior Asia, not of Egypt; for the Egyptians had only stone images; they had no images that were cast, golden, or overlaid with gold. There is no necessity for seeking the original of Jeroboam’s golden calves in any particular ancient nation. The bull was, according to the view common to all ancient peoples, especially to those who were agricultural, a symbol of the creative power, and consequently of the highest divinity, from which all life and being emanated. There was no type of divinity so universal in the ancient world as the bull (cf. Creuzer, Symbolik I. s. 318, 505, 747; iv. s. 128, 240; Baur, Symbolik I. s. 177 sq.; Movers, Relig. der Phoniz. s. 373 sq.). If Jeroboam wanted to give an intelligible and acceptable symbol of Jehovah to the people, he could have scarcely chosen anything but the bull, especially as the God who had brought Israel out of Egypt, and thus chosen them as His own (Isaiah 43:15-17), was adored by them as the Creator of heaven and earth. (The command that refers to the Sabbath day in the decalogue is founded upon the creation in Exodus 20:11, and upon the exodus in Deuteronomy 5:15). That which is true of Jeroboam’s image is also true of Aaron’s (Exodus 32:4), which was much nearer the time of the Exodus from Egypt, and therefore was still less likely to be an imitation of the Egyptian idols.

4. All the changes that Jeroboam made in the worship were calculated, on one hand, to serve his political ends, and likewise, on the other, to be agreeable and desirable to the people of the ten tribes. By setting up images of the deity he gratified the deep-seated instincts of this portion of the people, who, more inclined to nature-life (see the Hist, and Ethic. on above section), in their rudeness and sensuousness, even in the wilderness were not satisfied with an invisible God, but wanted one they could see. He drew the people from the imageless temple at Jerusalem by the erection of two images, and at each extremity of the kingdom; and he not only withdrew them from the one central point of worship which was necessary to the theocratic unity of the people, but he made it easier for the people to attend the new places of worship. By giving the priesthood to any one, not confining himself to the priestly tribe, he destroyed this sacred institution of a tribe of priests, who, being dispersed among all the tribes, were the guardians of the divine law, and of spiritual and religious culture. At the same time he flattered the people thereby, because any one could aspire to the dignity of the priesthood and obtain its emoluments. These he may have lessened in the interests of the people. There would scarcely have been a surer method of destroying the organization of a “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6), which had, as such, its central point in the priestly tribe, than this procedure of the king. He retained the feast of tabernacles because it was the most liked and the most frequented, and he held it necessary for the separated tribes to gather regularly around him as their lord, and unite in a common attitude over against Judah. To make this meeting, however, as easy as possible, he fixed on a later month, and thus broke the order of the feast-cycle, arranged according to the number 7. This, then, was the supposed deliverer of his country who, once he had the reins in his hands, was not content with controlling secular things, but so altered the religion of his people as to serve his own political ends, and introduced “what he had devised of his own heart” as the State religion. What was the alleged disposition of Solomon, from which he pretended to free the people, compared with this for which Jeroboam overthrew the fundamental law of the entire nation? “This,” remarks Vilmar (s. 191), “is the way with demagogues and Cæsaro-papalists, who have in all times said, and are still at it, so many criminal and senseless things, now of their care for the people, then of the rights of the ‘community,’ just as Jeroboam here;” and he remarks before (s. 189): “the departure (from political motives) from spiritual principles, which surely leads to destruction, is here portrayed for all times.”

5. The modern historical presentation of the elevation and ordinances of Jeroboam sketches quite another picture from that of the bibilical history. Duncker (Gesch. des Alterthums, I. s. 404) thinks the rebellion of the ten tribes in Shechem was not separation from Judah, but the reverse: “they perpetuated the kingdom and name of Israel, while one single tribe in the south separated themselves from the whole body.… As soon as Jerusalem ceased to be the capital of the State, the Temple ceased to be the place of worship for all the tribes. Jeroboam dedicated anew the old places of sacrifice at Bethel and Dan, and placed priests at both. He built a temple on the height at Bethel, which temple was to be instead of that at Jerusalem for his kingdom. Those beginnings of image-worship of Jehovah, which we may observe in the preceding period of the kingdom, and which continued in David’s time, were now universally and officially recognized. Jeroboam set up a golden bull-image to Jehovah in Dan and Bethel. In this restoration of the Jehovah worship we may also perceive a national reaction against the foreign worship that Solomon introduced in the last years of his reign.” Menzel takes the same view (Staats- und Rel.-Geschichte der Königreiche Israel und Juda, s. 156 sq.): “In the deliberation of Jeroboam in respect of the institutions of public worship, there seemed, doubtless, a right to restore its sacred character to the old national sanctuary (of Bethel) which the new Temple-service at Jerusalem had deprived it of, or at least lessened. This restoration, strictly speaking, took place at Bethel only.” That the people worshipped images is said to have no other proof than “the eloquent representation of the foes of image-worship, who in all ages have tried pretty much in the same way to enforce their views (colored by their own feelings) against the representation of what is thought,” as, for instance, “the prophet Hosea” (Hosea 8:6). According to this, there can indeed be no “sin of Jeroboam, wherewith he made Israel to sin;” he seems rather to have done a service to his people; so far from breaking the law, he was rather a reactionist and restorer. And when all the prophets denounced Jeroboam’s form of worship, they only spoke from their peculiar, subjective “manner of feeling,” for Israel always had images of the Deity, and even David “carried the image of Jehovah about with him in his marches” (Duncker, s. 408). We need no proof to show that this is turning the history upside down; it is an example of the unwarrantable style of writing history, which, under the semblance of scientific criticism, utterly ignores the text of the only historical source we have.

Homiletical and Practical

1 Kings 12:25-33. How Jeroboam sought to establish his sway, (a) outwardly, by the erection of fortifications; but these alone do not protect and guard a kingdom. A mountain fastness is our God (Psalms 71:3; Psalms 127:1); (b) inwardly, by ordinances for public worship, which can protect a kingdom only when they are conformable with the word and command of God and are not designed to subserve selfish purposes. [“Jeroboam king of Israel, to the destruction of him and his, did change the ceremonies which God had ordained, into his own, that is, into men’s inventions and detestable blasphemies.” Bullinger.—E. H.].—Würt. Summ.: We should trust ourselves not to fastnesses, but to God, and God wills not to be served otherwise than as He has commanded in His revealed word; our worship and service, therefore, must proceed from faith, and we shall be blessed of Him.

1 Kings 12:26. As soon as Jeroboam obtained the wish of his heart, namely, the rulership, he asked no longer about the condition under which it was promised to him and with which it was bound up (1 Kings 11:38). How often we forget, when God has granted to us the desire of our hearts, to walk in His ways. He who obtains rulership by the path of rebellion, must always be in fear and anxiety lest he lose it again in the same way, for the populace which today cries Hosanna will, on the morrow, shout crucify, crucify! An evil conscience makes the most stout-hearted and the strongest timid and anxious, so that he sees dangers where there are none, and then to insure his own safety devises wrong and evil instruments. One false step always requires another.

1 Kings 12:28-33. The sin of Jeroboam wherewith he caused Israel to sin. (a) He erected images of God against the supreme commandment of God (Exodus 20:4). (b) He set aside the prescribed order of the servants of God, and made his own priests, (c) He altered the feast which was a reminder of the great deeds of God, and made it a mere nature-and-harvest feast. That is the greatest tyranny when the ruler of a land makes himself the master also of the faith and conscience of his subjects.—Cramer: In the estimation of the people of the world this policy of Jeroboam is held to be proper, because they consider that religion is to be established, held, and altered, as may be useful and good for the land and the people and the common interest, and that the regimen is not for the sake of the religion, but the religion for the regimen. Consequently Jeroboam acted well and wisely in the matter. But God says, on the other hand, All that I command you, that shall ye observe, ye shall not add thereto (Deuteronomy 12:32). For Godliness is not to be regulated by the common weal, but the common weal is to be regulated by Godliness. Every government which employs religious instrumentalities, and interferes with the faith of the people, not for the sake of God and the salvation of souls, but for the attainment of political ends, shares the guilt of the sin of Jeroboam, and involves itself in heavy responsibilities.

1 Kings 12:28. Calw. B.: To the perverted man, what he shall do for his God is forthwith too much. In matters of faith and of the homage due to God we should not consider what is convenient and agreeable to the great mass, but should inquire only for what God prescribes in His word. He who conciliates the sensuousness and the untutored ways of the masses, and flatters their unbelief or their superstition, belongs to the false prophets who make broad the way of life. Doctrines, and institutions which depart from the revealed word of God are often praised as progress and seasonable reforms, while in truth they are steps backward, and corrupting innovations. In Christendom we pray no longer to wood and stone, and to golden calves, and think ourselves thereby raised far above a darkened heathenism, but, nevertheless, we often place the creature above the Creator, and abandon ourselves to it with all our love and consideration and service. Behold, the things and persons thou lovest with thy whole heart and strength, these are thy gods. What use of typical representations in the worship of God is permitted, and what is forbidden?

1 Kings 12:30. Starke: As a great tree in a forest, when it falls drags down many others with it, so also are many others carried along by the bad example of those who rule, when they fall away from their religion, or sin otherwise grossly against God.

1 Kings 12:31. We have in the new covenant no Levitical priesthood indeed, but a pastoral and preaching office which the Lord has instituted, so that, thereby, the body of Christ may be edified (Ephesians 4:11). He who despises this office, and thinks that any one without distinction and without a lawful calling may exercise it, is a partaker in the sin of Jeroboam. “No one,” says the Augsburg Confession, “shall teach or preach publicly in the church, or administer the sacraments, without due calling.”

1 Kings 12:32. The festivals which an entire people celebrate in remembrance of the great deeds of God for them, are the support of their faith and of their life of fellowship. It is to destroy this life when, from prejudice and for the sake of outward wordly considerations, arbitrarily they are altered or abandoned.

1 Kings 12:33. As it is good and praise-worthy when kings and princes engage in the service of God along with their subjects, and set them a good example, so also is it blameworthy when they do it only to win the people over to themselves, and to secure their authority over them.


1 Kings 12:27; 1 Kings 12:27.—[The Sept. has “to the Lord and (or even) to their lord.” The Syr. omits this word Lord altogether. The Vat. Sept. omits the last clause of the verse.

1 Kings 12:28; 1 Kings 12:28.—[Our author prefers the sense of the Sept., Chald., and Vulg., “let it suffice you,” “do not any longer go up.” Keil argues that the Heb. cannot be so translated, and prefers the sense of the A. V.

1 Kings 12:28; 1 Kings 12:28.—[The Heb. אֱלֹהֶיךָ may be taken either in the plural, as in the A.V. and the ancient VV. generally, or in the singular, as in our author’s translation, according to the common Heb. usage. For reasons for the latter see the Exeg. Com.

1 Kings 12:30; 1 Kings 12:30.—[The translation of וַיְהִי became may seem to ignore the fact that Jeroboam’s deed already was a sin in itself.

1 Kings 12:30; 1 Kings 12:30.—[Our author’s translation inserts in brackets “or the other.” See Exeg. Com.

1 Kings 12:30; 1 Kings 12:30.—[The Vat. Sept. adds, “and forsook the house of the Lord.”

1 Kings 12:31; 1 Kings 12:31.—[בֵּית־בָּמוֹת correctly rendered in the A. V. in the singular, since the contrast is with the בֵּית־יְהוָֹה at Jerusalem. The Sept. in translating οἴκους ἐφ ὑψηλῶν, and the Vulg. fana in excelsis, have overlooked the point.

1 Kings 12:31; 1 Kings 12:31.—[The Heb. מִקְצוֹת does not mean so much “from the lowest of the people” as, “from all classes,” “from the mass of the people promiscuously,” in contradistinction to the especial Levitical family. Cf. Genesis 47:2; Ezekiel 33:2, and see Exeg. Com. The A. V. is sustained by the Vulg. alone among the ancient VV.

1 Kings 12:32; 1 Kings 12:32.—[The A. V. is here sustained by the Vulg. and Arab. The other VV. give the sense preferred by our author in the Exeg. Com. “Went up to, or upon (i.e. upon the approach to) the altar,” thus translating the last words of 1 Kings 12:33, “to burn incense.”

1 Kings 12:32; 1 Kings 12:32.—[The Sept. must have read אֲשֶׁר instead of כֵּן since it translates”—the altar which he made in Bethel.”

1 Kings 12:33; 1 Kings 12:33.—Nehemiah 6:8 clearly shows that the k’ri מלבו is the true reading. All the translations are in accordance with this. The k’tib מלבד gives no sense, since it does not mean seorsum sc. a Judœis (Maurer, Keil); but except, beside. [Keil takes the opposite view of the meaning, and denies the necessity of the change.—F. G.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/1-kings-12.html. 1857-84.
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