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1 Kings 14:2. Arise, I pray thee, and disguise thyself— Jeroboam most probably sent his wife to consult the prophet at Shiloh, because this was a secret not to be intrusted with any body else; a secret which, had it been divulged, might have endangered his whole government; because, if once his subjects came to understand that he himself had no confidence in the calves which he had set up, but, in any matter of importance, had recourse to true worshippers of God, it is not to be imagined what an inducement this would have been for them to forsake these senseless idols, and to return to the worship of the God of Israel, whom they had imprudently forsaken. The queen then was the only person in whom he could have confidence. As a mother, he knew that she would be diligent in her inquiry; and as a wife, faithful in her report; but there were sundry reasons why he might desire her to disguise herself: for though Shiloh lay within the confines of Ephraim, yet there is sufficient ground to think, that it was subject to the house of David, and belonged to the kingdom of Judah. It was certainly nearer Jerusalem than Shechem, which Rehoboam had lately fortified, and made his place of residence: and therefore Jeroboam thought it not safe to venture his queen in a place under his rival's government, without her putting on some disguise. He knew too, that the prophet Ahijah was much offended with him for the great idolatry he had introduced; and therefore he might think, that if the prophet perceived her to be his wife, he would either tell her nothing, or make things, much worse than they were. The way therefore to come at the truth, was, as he thought, to do what he did: but herein appears his infatuation, that he should not think the person whom he held capable of resolving him in the fate of his son, able to see through this guile and disguise.
1 Kings 14:3. Take with thee ten loaves, &c.— What the presents were which were made to the ancient prophets, we are not always told; but all the particulars of that made to Ahijah, by Jeroboam's queen, are here given us. I very much question, however, whether that was any part of the disguise that she assumed, as Bishop Patrick supposes, who imagines that she presented him with such things as might make the prophet think her to be a country woman, rather than a courtier. It undoubtedly was not a present which proclaimed royalty; that would have been contrary to Jeroboam's intention of her being unknown. But it does not appear to have been in the estimation of the East a present only fit for a countrywoman to have made; for D'Arvieux tells us, that when he waited upon an Arab emir, his mother and sister, to gratify whose curiosity that visit was made, sent him early in the morning, after his arrival in the camp, a present of pastry, honey, fresh butter, with a bason of sweetmeats of Damascus. Now this present differs but little from that of Jeroboam's wife, who carried loaves, cracknels, or other cakes enriched with seeds, (a species of bread then and still very common in the East,), and a cruse of honey, and was made by princesses, that avowed their quality. See Observations, p. 236 where the reader will find more respecting the custom of making presents in the East; and p. 133, where the author endeavours at large to confirm the meaning which he gives to the word נקדים nikkuddim, cracknels.
1 Kings 14:4. Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were set by reason of his age— The more nearly we examine the structure of the human body, and the more attentively we consider it, the more we are struck with admiration. All, even the hardest parts, as the bones and cartilages, derive their origin from a fluid matter: but in old age the softest membranes grow hard, and the fluids themselves become subject to the laws of petrifaction. The smaller tubes, through which the fluids pass, are tender and flexible in youth, but acquire solidity till the age of perfection; and, at last, in old age harden and even ossify in several parts. Hence the long train of maladies, hence old age, which is itself a malady. The eyes, which are a real camera obscura constructed with infinite art, have not only the faculty of moving in every sense, in children, in adults, and in grown men; but by a certain subtle mechanism, the retina sometimes draws near, sometimes removes from the crystalline, according as the objects are more or less distant: and nature, without our knowing it, and even in spite of us, does in the highest perfection what art effects in a camera obscura, by drawing near, or removing, a paper or cloth from the glass through which the light enters. But in decrepid age this painting naturally goes off, the eyes grow dark, like those of Ahijah, the fibres lose their flexibility, the eyes wrinkle, and at length we see distant objects more distinctly than those which are near; and when the space which is between the retina and crystalline comes to be so blocked up, as that the rays of light can no more centre in this thin tunicle, the person then becomes blind.
Note; (1.) The ministers of God must not be courtiers, but deliver their message to the great, however disagreeable, with boldness and freedom. (2.) Disguises may pass upon men whose dim sight cannot see through the veil; but no covering can hide the hypocrite from the eye of God. (3.) They who hope to recommend themselves to God by their formal duties and services, like Jeroboam's wife with her present, will find a terrible disappointment, when, among hypocrites, their portion shall be allotted in the outer darkness.
1 Kings 14:10. And him that is shut up and left in Israel— That which in Israel seems laid up and safe. Houbigant.
1 Kings 14:13. Because in him there is found some good thing toward the Lord— It appears evidently from the same mode of expression, 2 Chronicles 19:3., that the meaning here must be, that he was the only person in the family, who had expressed a dislike to the worship of the calves; an inclination and intention to abolish it whenever he should come into power; and to admit, if not oblige, his subject to go up to Jerusalem to worship as the Lord prescribed.
1 Kings 14:14. But what? even now— Houbigant renders this, and at this very time; observing that the Hebrew particle מה meh, is not always interrogative.
1 Kings 14:15. The river— The river Euphrates.
1 Kings 14:19. The Book of the Chronicles— By this is meant a book, in which were contained the annals of the kings of Israel; and not either of those which we have under this title.
REFLECTIONS.—Jeroboam's wife is bid to carry to her husband tidings of bitter woe. The God of Israel, whom he had so dishonoured, and whose people he had so injured, will avenge their quarrel upon him.
1. He upbraids him with his base ingratitude, and impious apostacy. God, who had so highly distinguished him, might justly expect a return of fidelity; but lo! he had exceeded all that went before him in wickedness. David had sins, great ones; but he never turned unto idols. Solomon for a time was unfaithful, but (we trust) repented: even Saul added not this to his iniquities. But Jeroboam had opened the flood-gates of idolatry, and not only sinned himself, but involved the people in this mortal sin. Note; (1.) The greater the mercies we have received, the greater the guilt of unfaithfulness to God. (2.) They who cause others to sin, heap up the measure of vengeance against themselves.
2. He denounces the approaching ruin on Jeroboam's house, chap. 1 Kings 15:29. His family should be utterly extirpated, and their dead bodies lie unburied, as dung on the earth. Nor was the day distant when God would raise up another king to the throne, who should execute his vengeance: even now the judgment was at the door. Note; (1.) Sudden destruction often overtakes sinners in the midst of their career. (2.) Their carcases in the day of God shall be thus cast out, as an abhorring to all flesh, Isaiah 66:24.
3. The death of the heir of his throne (who was sick) as soon as she reached the city, should be the prelude and earnest of the judgments which approached. In one thing he shall be distinguished from his ungodly relations; he shall go to his grave with honour; and this, because in him alone some good thing was found towards the Lord God of Israel. When all the rest apostatised, he shewed the gracious symptoms of a heart inclined to God, and which cleaved to his worship. Note; (1.) Every gracious desire that God implants he will take notice of. (2.) Youthful piety is peculiarly amiable. (3.) A little grace in bad times shines bright. The light is heightened by the dark shades around it. (4.) God in mercy removes the righteous from the evil to come. (5.) The darling child is often snatched away for a warning to the family. (6.) The soul which is early ripe for glory, God gathers, like a sweet flower, into his bosom.
4. Though the king shall bear the heaviest burden, his apostate subjects, who followed his wicked ways, shall not be unpunished. The prophet foretels their tumultuous, unsettled state, torn with faction, and frequently changing their kings, till, weakened by intestine division, they would become an easier prey to foreign enemies, and be carried away captive beyond the river Euphrates. Note; (1.) Though we may have examples never so great to plead for our sin, it will not screen us from punishment. (2.) Ruin is not far from a kingdom when righteousness is expelled, and iniquity triumphant.
5. The prophesy begins to receive an immediate accomplishment in the death of Abijah, who, according to the word of the prophet, died as soon as Jeroboam's wife entered the palace at Tirzah. His amiable dispositions, as well as his dignity, made him much lamented, and occasioned, no doubt, dire forebodings of the approaching evil. Note; Death pays no more respect to palaces, than to the clay-built hut.
6. Jeroboam himself, after a reign of twenty-two years, finished a wicked life by a miserable death, see 2 Chronicles 13:20; struck with some dire disease, which brought him to his grave, and leaving his tottering crown to his unhappy son Nadab, who, following his father's wicked ways, soon filled up the measure of the iniquity of his family.
1 Kings 14:25. Shishak, king of Egypt— It may seem something strange, that Shishak, who was so nearly allied to Rehoboam, should come up against him and take his royal city; but Rehoboam, we must remember, was not the son of Pharaoh's daughter, and therefore no relation to Shishak. But even had he been never so nearly related, as kingdoms, we know, never marry; so it is likely that Jeroboam, who had lived long in Egypt, stirred up Shishak to invade his rival, that he might thereby establish himself in his new kingdom: and it was for this reason, that when the armies of Egypt had taken the fenced cities of Judah, they returned without giving Jeroboam, or his dominions, the least disturbance. See Bishop Patrick.
1 Kings 14:27. Rehoboam made in their stead brasen shields— This shews to what a low condition the kingdom of Judah was reduced. Those shields were a matter of state and grandeur; and therefore it concerned them, if they were able, to have them of the same value that they were before, as they were carried before the king to the house of the Lord: it seemed likewise to be a matter of religion, that their value should not be diminished. Now, in making these three hundred shields, we are told, chap. 1Ki 10:17 three pounds of gold went to one shield. This, at four pounds per ounce, or forty-eight pounds sterling to the pound, amounts to no more than forty-three thousand two hundred pounds; and therefore it was a miserable case that they were reduced from so much wealth to so much poverty, that neither reasons of state nor of religion could raise so small a sum on so great an occasion. See Bedford's Scrip. Chronol.
1 Kings 14:30. There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days— But how does this agree with chap. 1 Kings 12:23, &c. where God commands Rehoboam and his people not to fight against the Israelites? We must observe, that though the Jews were commanded not to make war upon the Israelites, yet they were not commanded not to defend themselves in case the Israelites should make war upon them: and considering that they were now become two rival nations, they might upon the borders be continually endeavouring to gain ground upon each other, and so run into frequent acts of hostility without ever once engaging in a pitched battle.
REFLECTIONS.—The histories of the kingdom of Judah and Israel are throughout this book intermixed. Jeroboam's reign was near five years longer than Rehoboam's; but, to finish his history, his death is first recorded.
1. The account of Rehoboam contains nothing either great or good, but gives just suspicion, that the tenor of his government was as weak and wicked as the opening of it was rash and impolitic. He began his reign when, if ever, he might have been wise, at the age of forty-one, having enjoyed all the advantages of the best instruction; but he imitated his father's aged folly, rather than his early wisdom. He reigned (not half so long as his predecessors) but seventeen years, and these disturbed by perpetual wars or bickerings with his rival Jeroboam. His mother was an Ammonitess, a bad wife for a king of Israel; and her son partook more of the temper of Ammon, than the spirit of Abraham. Note; Ungodly connections often entail miseries on the latest posterity. He died at Jerusalem, where he reigned, and left the crown to Abijam, a bad son of a bad father.
2. The account of his subjects is bad, very bad. Led by his ill example, or not restrained by his negligence, far from being shocked at their neighbours' idolatry, they quickly imitated them, and committed abominations even beyond their fathers' worst days; provoking God to jealousy by their images and hill-altars, and forsaking the house of his glory; giving up their bodies to abominable and unnatural lusts, as well as their souls to spiritual adultery; imitating all the profane rites, and following all the detestable lewdness of the accursed Canaanites, whom God had cast out before them. Note; (1.) They grow most abandoned, who fall from the profession of religion that they once made. (2.) When men provoke God by their sins, he, in just judgment, gives them up to their own hearts' lusts. (3.) If Canaan for such things suffered, shall Israel escape? no, in no wise.
3. God begins his visitations for their sins, by giving them up to Shishak king of Egypt, who, in the fifth year of Rehoboam, after plundering the country, besieged Jerusalem, and was only to be bought off by the surrender of all the treasures which David and Solomon had amassed: such passing vanities are this world's riches!
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 14". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany