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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 12

Coke's Commentary on the Holy BibleCoke's Commentary

Verse 1

1 Kings 12:1. Rehoboam went to Shechem Shechem stood not only in the centre of the kingdom of Israel, but in the middle of the tribe of Ephraim, wherein was the greater number of mal-contents. It was, therefore, very probably, by the management of Jeroboam, or some of his friends who durst not, perhaps, venture themselves at Jerusalem, that this city was made choice of as a place of general convention; because they might more securely propose their grievances, which they were resolved to do, and use a greater freedom of speech than they could at Jerusalem, where the family of David was more powerful, more numerous, and better supported. See Calmet and Poole.

Verse 4

1 Kings 12:4. Thy father made our yoke grievous What the particular grievances were which these people desire to have redressed, we may gather from chap. 1Ki 4:7 namely, the tribute that Solomon exacted for his buildings, the expences of his family, and the maintenance of his chariots and horses. It is observable, that among all their complaints they take no notice of Solomon's idolatry, or the strange worship introduced by him; though this, one would think, should have been reckoned one of their greater grievances.

Verse 8

1 Kings 12:8. Consulted with the young men that were grown up with him It was a custom among the kings of the east, to have their sons educated among other young lords of the same age; which, as it created a generous spirit of emulation, and both endeared the prince to the nobles, and the nobles to the prince, could not, in general, but tend greatly to the benefit of the public. So that Solomon's method and design in the education of his son was wise and well concerted, though it failed of success. These young men, however, were not so young but they might have known better, for Rehoboam was one and forty years old when he entered upon the kingdom: so that these nobles who were brought up with him must have been about the same age; but they were young in experience and wisdom, and therefore they gave the king such unseasonable advice. See Patrick and Calmet.

REFLECTIONS.—The succession devolved on Rehoboam without dispute, and none seemed to contest his title: but we are not most safe, when most confident in our security.

1. The people of Israel desired the king to come to Shechem, in the tribe of Ephraim, as if they would there recognize his title; but, in fact, with a view either to redress their grievances, or revolt from his government; and they were probably already gained by Jeroboam's emissaries. Note; Many a base design lurks under the most specious appearances.

2. Having privately sent for Jeroboam out of Egypt, they, probably at his instigation, presented a petition for the redress of their grievances, which, whether real or not, would give him a handle to strike the stroke that he meditated. They complain not of his father's sins, but of the heaviness of their taxes, and beg that they may be lightened; nor is it at all unlikely, that though Solomon's reign at first was so gentle, and their circumstances so affluent, yet when a thousand women had him in their power, they would, like so many harpies, fleece the poor people. Note; (1.) The best government will not be without factious spirits, ready to blow the coals of sedition among the populace. (2.) The avarice of a kept mistress is insatiable. (3.) Most men are more concerned how to save their money than their souls.

3. Rehoboam's folly ruins him. Desiring three days to answer their petition, he consulted first the old men who had been trained up in the school of wisdom before Solomon. They prudently advise him to comply with the people's request; either the demand was reasonable, or at least, in their present disposition, it were politic to appear gracious, and by one concession secure for ever their fidelity. Rehoboam relished not this advice; therefore he consults his younger companions, who, having grown up with him in his pleasures, knew how to flatter his pride, and to advise those harsh measures which they saw most agreeable to his temper; as if he had nothing to fear, but might, by rigour and threatenings, over-awe the people to obedience. Advice so suited to his own disposition, he failed not to pursue; and, on the third day, roughly received the deputies of the people: far from condescending to their request, or vindicating his father's government from oppression, he threatens to make their yoke heavier, and, if they refused to draw in it, to chastise them with greater severity than his father had ever done: if they dared dispute his will, he would make them feel his power; so that his little finger should be thicker than his father's loins. This bad advice was God's just judgment on him, and conduced to the fulfilment of the prophesy of Ahijah. Note; (1.) That government which subsists only by severity, is in a tottering condition; no throne is sure, where a king reigns not in the hearts of his subjects. (2.) They are our best friends who dissuade us from rash designs; and they are our greatest enemies who soothe our folly and flatter our pride. (3.) At court, too commonly, not the profit of the kingdom, but the pleasing of the king, is the object most in view.

Verse 16

1 Kings 12:16. Now, see to thine own house, David It is observable to every reader of the History of the Jews, of how ungrateful a disposition this people was; not only to God, but to their best temporal benefactors. Surely no nation ever owed greater obligations to a prince, than the Israelites did to David; yet how soon are all his benefits forgotten, and the people, almost with one accord, revolt from his grandson!

Verse 18

1 Kings 12:18. Rehoboam sent Adoram, &c.— He sent Adoram to treat with them, which was an act of great imprudence when they were so highly exasperated. But to send so disagreeable a man, one who was the collector of the very tribute of which they complained, was downright infatuation; for, nothing is so natural as to hate those who are in any sort the instruments of our oppression. We read in this verse, for the first time, of a king of Israel's riding in a chariot; Saul, David, and Solomon did not ride in any. But use was frequently made of them, both by the kings of Judah and Israel, after this unhappy division of the kingdom.

Verse 22

1 Kings 12:22. Shemaiah the man of God This prophet was very well known in the reign of Rehoboam. He is supposed to have written the annals of that prince; and of what authority he was in Judah we may gather from this passage, where he is said to have prevailed with the king and a hundred and fourscore thousand men, to lay down their arms and return home, merely by declaring that the division which had happened was by the order and appointment of God. Calmet.

Note; 1. They who know the great sin of rebellion, will suffer much, rather than rise to vindicate themselves, by so dangerous a measure. 2. When God's will contradicts our designs, we must patiently submit. 3. Love to our brethren should make us put up with many injuries, rather than seek a redress which may be ruinous to both. 4. If we fight against God, there can be no hope of success; it is wise therefore betimes to leave off meddling.

Verse 25

1 Kings 12:25. Jeroboam built Shechem 1:e. Rebuilt, enlarged, and beautified it, and made it a royal city.

Verse 27

1 Kings 12:27. If this people go up to do sacrifice, &c.— Though the people were very angry with their ill-advised king, and though his ungracious reception of their tender of duty to him, and his threats of worse treatment towards them, transported and provoked them so far, as to make them withdraw their obedience from him; yet Jeroboam easily foresaw, that when they should go up again to the temple at Jerusalem, whither their religion obliged them to repair, and should hear the priests expound the law of God to them, they would quickly recollect themselves, and their consciences would smite them for withdrawing from their God, their temple, and their king.

Verse 28

1 Kings 12:28. And made two calves of gold, &c.— The text is very plain respecting the reasons why Jeroboam set up these calves; and there can be no room to doubt that they were of the same kind with the calf set up by Aaron, concerning which we have spoken at large in our note on Exo 32:4 to which we refer, subjoining what Bishop Warburton has said upon the subject: "The fondness which the Israelites had for the superstitions of Egypt, has been frequently before demonstrated. Nor did their fondness for Egypt at all abate, when they came under the iron rod of their [absolute] kings, the magistrate whom they so rebelliously demanded, and who, as they pretended, was to set all things right. On the contrary, this folly grew still more inflamed, and instead of one calf they would have two, 1Ki 12:29 which Ezekiel hints at where he says, yet she multiplied her whoredoms, in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she played the harlot in the land of Egypt, Ezekiel 23:19. And so favourite a superstition were the calves of Bethel and Dan, that they still kept their ground against all those general reformations which divers of their better kings had made to purge the land of Israel from idolatry. It is true, their extreme fondness for Egyptian superstition was not the only cause of this inveterate adherence to the calves. There were two others. They flattered themselves that this specific idolatry was not altogether so gross an affront to the God of their fathers as many of the rest. Others of their idolatries consisted in worshipping strange gods in conjunction with the God of Israel; this of the calves, only in worshipping the God of Israel in an idolatrous manner; as appears from the history of their erection, 1 Kings 12:26-29. It is too much for you, says he, 1Ki 12:28 to go up to Jerusalem. Who were the men disposed to go up? None, surely, but the worshippers of the God of Israel: consequently, the calves here offered, to save them a journey, must needs be given as the representative of that God; and, if these were so, then certainly the calf in Horeb was intended for the same purpose; since, at their several consecrations, the very same title was proclaimed of all three. Behold thy gods, O Israel, who brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. The other cause of the perpetual adherence of the kingdom of Israel to their golden calves, was, their being erected for a prevention of re-union with the kingdom of Judah. If this people (says this politic contriver, 1 Kings 12:27.) go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn, &c. The succeeding kings therefore, we may be sure, were as careful in preserving them, as he was in putting them up: so that, good or bad, the character common to them all was, that he departed not from the sin of Jeroboam, the sin of Nebat, who made Israel to sin; namely, in worshipping the calves in Dan and Beth-el. And those of them who appeared most zealous for the law of God, and utterly exterminated the idolatry of Baal, yet connived, at least, at this political worship of the calves; 2 Kings 10:28; 2 Kings 10:36. A farther reason for Jeroboam's adopting this symbol in preference to others, will appear from observing that it was peculiar to the Egyptians, and that he had sojourned in Egypt as a refugee during the latter part of the reign of Solomon." See chap. 1 Kings 11:40. Exodus 32:0; Exodus 4:0 and Div. Leg. vol. 3: p. 328.

Verse 31

1 Kings 12:31. He—made priests of the lowest of the people, &c.— Out of the bulk of the people, &c. See Genesis 47:2.Ezekiel 33:2; Ezekiel 33:2. Of certain families which were not of the tribe of Levi. Houbigant.

Verse 32

1 Kings 12:32. Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, &c.— As the Jews had their feast of tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, so Jeroboam had a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month, which he instituted of his own accord. Some suppose, that as this feast was appointed by God to be observed after the gathering in of the fruits, which might be sooner ripe in Jerusalem than in the northern parts of the country, so Jeroboam might pretend that the eighth month would be a better time for it than the seventh, because then they would every where be gathered. Others imagine, that he might have this farther deign in the alteration of the month, namely, that the people of Judah, when their own feast was over a month before at Jerusalem, might have an opportunity to come to his if their curiosity led them: but the plain case is, that he did every thing that he could in opposition to the established religion, and his chief intent was to alienate the people from Jerusalem. See Vatablus, and Bedford's Scripture Chron. book 6: ch. 2.

Note; 1. Image worship, however vindicated or palliated by the papists, is abominable idolatry. 2. They who think to secure their safety by sin, only hasten the ruin they would avoid. 3. All pretences to religious zeal, contrary to God's revealed will, are but the devices of Satan more fatally to delude men's souls.

Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/1-kings-12.html. 1801-1803.
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