Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, succeeds to the kingdom. He begins his reign in refusing the old men's counsel, and follows that of young men. Ten tribes of Israel revolt. The chapter concludes with an account of Jeroboam's idolatry.
1 Kings 12:1
(1) ¶ And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.
It should seem that Solomon though he had so many wives, had but this one son. There was no dispute therefore about his succession to the kingdom.
(2) And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;) (3) That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, (4) Thy 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.
After what hath been related concerning Jeroboam in the former chapter, there can be but little doubt that he came and addressed the king in the spirit of rebellion. The complaint which he gave concerning Solomon, was true, if the people meant it respecting his idolatry. But otherwise never was so prosperous a reign, nor one less oppressive.
(5) And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed. (6) And 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 answer this people? (7) And 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 good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever. (8) But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him: (9) And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter? (10) And 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 thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins. (11) And 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.
Though Solomon himself was the wisest of men, yet it should seem he had the most foolish of sons. By his folly in listening to the counsel of rash young men, he actually seemed to allow that his father had been a tyrant, but that he would exceed him in oppression.
(12) So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day. (13) And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him; (14) And 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 chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions. (15) Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
This last verse throws a light upon this whole transaction; the cause was from the Lord! that is, the Lord left him to his own devices; and these were only evil. And Reader! is not this the very case of those who reject the counsel of God against their own souls; and in turning a deaf ear to the blessed truths of the gospel, justly bring down the judgment of condemnation upon themselves. That is a most awful scripture which tells us, that the very same blessed gospel, which to some is the savour of life unto life, becomes to others the savour of death unto death. The same fire which melts wax will harden clay. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.
(16) ¶ So 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 your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents. (17) But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. (18) Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, 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. (19) So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day. (20) And 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 Judah only.
What I particularly desire the Reader to remark with me in these verses is the honour with which Judah is mentioned, as adhering to the house of David. And while the Reader makes this remark, let him connect with it the recollection that our Lord sprang out of Judah. Hebrews 7:14.
(21) And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon. (22) But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying, (23) Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying, (24) Thus saith the LORD, 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, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.
Let the Reader remark also here how the Lord overruled the minds of his people, and kept them from slaughter by the ministry of his servant Shemaiah.
(25) ¶ Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. (26) And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: (27) If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. (28) Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (29) And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. (30) And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. (31) And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. (32) And 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 offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. (33) So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.
The awful character of Jeroboam, which the Holy Ghost in after ages marked with such peculiar spots of infamy, can hardly be contemplated but with horror. His daring impiety in setting up those golden calves, seems to have been intended, not only to lead the minds of the then generation from the Lord; but also by way of approbation of the idolatry of their fathers in Horeb, which Moses recorded, and the psalmist so pathetically mourned over. Exodus 32:4; Psalms 106:19-20. His contempt of the priesthood also was manifested in taking for priests of the lowest of the people. His contempt of the temple itself in setting up a place of his own. And his contempt of the solemn seasons which the Lord had enjoined in altering the very day of the month. And add to all, his invading the sacred office in himself, consecrating his creatures, in the priestly office. So that among all the characters we meet with in history of daring, unblushing impiety, Jeroboam stands foremost. And especially, if we recollect how all the appointments in the service of the temple were considered as shadows of a better dispensation, and had an eye to Christ, here his conduct riseth to the highest possible pitch of blasphemy as well as profaneness! But if in those remote ages the Lord regarded with such anger the despisers who treated the symbols of his sanctuary with disregard; what an awful state are those gospel despisers in, who set up the idols of their own imaginations in their hearts, and refuse both him that spake from earth, and now speaketh from heaven. From all hardness of heart, and contempt of thy word and commandment, good Lord deliver us!
WHAT a sad page for the most painful reflection doth the Holy Ghost give us in the view of Rehoboam's folly and Jeroboam's sin! what a train of evil is induced by the fall! what is every man by nature but blind, ignorant, wayward, and perverse! Reader! have you ever remarked how sinners, like Jeroboam, work all uncleanness with greediness? Like soldiers in Satan's army; they enlist under his banner; they wear his uniform; they volunteer in his service; they clothe themselves with his armour, and wield the weapons of sin, enmity and malice. And unless recovered out of the snare of the devil, if living and dying in his service, their end must be destruction, and their wages everlasting death.
Precious, precious Jesus! what everlasting thanks hath my soul to offer to thee, thou great and glorious captain of my salvation, in that thou hast, at no less expense than thine own blood and life, brought me out of his slavish ranks, and made me free indeed in thy service. Oh! Lord! give me grace to reverence thy temple, thine ordinances, thine house of prayer, thy sabbaths; and never more, like Jeroboam, set up in my poor heart any idol of abomination. Let every imagination be cast down, and every high thing that would exalt itself against the knowledge of God, be taken away, and let every thought be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Be thou, dearest Lord, everything to me that is precious; and do thou reign and rule in my heart, the hope of glory!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent