Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

1 Kings 12

Verses 1-24


THE REVOLT OF THE TEN TRIBES.—With the reign of Rehoboam, on which our historian now enters, we begin the second great period in the history of the Hebrew monarchy, so far as it is related in these Books of KINGS. The first, which comprises the Augustan age of Israel, the short-lived maturity of the race in the reign of Solomon, has extended over forty years, from B.C. 1015 to B.C. 975. The second, which is the period of the existence of the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah side by side—that is to say, from the disruption to the carrying away of Israel into captivity—extends over two centuries and a half, viz; from B.C. 975 to B.C. 722, and is, with few exceptions, a period of steady and shameful decline.

And in giving his account of the division of the kingdom, our historian, more suo, confines himself to the recital of actual facts, and hardly speaks of their hidden causes. Yet the sixteenth verse of this chapter reveals to us very clearly one of the secret springs of the dissatisfaction which existed at the date of Rehoboam's accession, one of the influences which ultimately led to the disruption of Israel. Jealousy on the part of Ephraim of the powerful tribe of Judah had undoubtedly something to do with the revolution of which we now read. The discontent occasioned by Solomon's levies and the headstrong folly of Rehoboam were the immediate causes, but influences much deeper and of longer standing were also at work. The tribe of Ephraim had clearly never thoroughly acquiesced in the superiority which its rival, the tribe of Judah, by furnishing to the nation its sovereigns, its seat of government, and its sanctuary, had attained. During the two former reigns the envy of Ephraim had been held in check, but it was there, and it only needed an occasion, such as Rehoboam afforded it, to blaze forth. That proud tribe could not forget the glowing words in which both Jacob (Genesis 49:22-26, "the strength of my head") and Moses (Deuteronomy 33:13-17) had foretold their future eminence. They remembered, too, that their position—in the very centre of the land was also the richest in all natural advantages. Compared with their picturesque and fertile possessions, the territory of Judah was as a stony wilderness. And for a long time they had enjoyed a certain superiority in the nation. In the time of Joshua we find them fully conscious of their strength and numbers (Joshua 17:14), and the leader himself admits their power (verse 17). When the tabernacle was first set up, it was at Shiloh, in the territory of Ephraim (Joshua 18:1), and there the ark remained for more than three hundred years. And the pre-eminence of Ephraim amongst the northern tribes is curiously evidenced by the way in which it twice resented ( 8:1; 12:1) campaigns undertaken without its sanction and cooperation. It and its sister tribe of Manasseh had furnished, down to the time of David, the leaders and commanders of the people—Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, Abimelech, and Samuel—and when the kingdom was established it was from the allied tribe of Benjamin that the first monarch was selected. "It was natural that, with such an inheritance of glory, Ephraim always chafed under any rival supremacy". It was natural, too, that for seven years it should refuse allegiance to a prince of the rival house of Judah. Even when, at the end of that time, the elders of Israel recognized David as "king over Israel" (2 Samuel 5:8), the fires of jealousy, as the revolt of Sheba and the curses of Shimei alike show, were not wholly extinguished. And the transference of the sanctuary, as well as the sceptre, to Judah—for Jerusalem, whilst mainly in the territory of Benjamin, was also on the border of Judah—would occasion fresh heart burnings. It has been supposed by some that Psalms 78:1-72, was penned as a warning to Ephraim against rebellion, and to reconcile them to their loss of place and power; that, if so, it was not effectual, and that the jealousy endured at a much later date Isaiah 11:13 shows. There had probably been an attempt on the part of Jeroboam the Ephraimite to stir up his and the neighbouring tribes against the ascendancy of Judah in the person of Solomon. That first attempt proved abortive. But now that their magnificent king was dead, now that the reins of government were held by his weak and foolish son, the men of Ephraim resolved unless they could wrest from him very great concessions, to brook the rule of Judah no longer and to have a king of their own house.

1 Kings 12:1

And Rehoboam [see on 1 Kings 11:26, and compare the name εὐρύδημος. The name possibly indicates Solomon's ambitious hopes respecting him. The irony of history alone emphasizes it. Ecclesiastes 2:18, Ecclesiastes 2:19 would seem to show that Solomon himself had misgivings as to his son's abilities. "As the greatest persons cannot give themselves children, so the wisest cannot give their children wisdom" (Hall). His mother was Naamah, an Ammonitess (1 Kings 14:31). It would appear from 1 Kings 14:21, and 2 Chronicles 12:13, that he was 41 years of age at his accession. But this is, to say the least, doubtful. For

1 Kings 12:2

And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat [see on 1 Kings 11:26], who was yet in Egypt [The usual, and indeed the necessary, interpretation, if we retain our present Hebrew text, is that these words refer, not as the context would lead us to suppose, to the time indicated in 1 Kings 11:1, 1 Kings 11:3, etc; but to the time of Solomon's death. But see below], heard of it [The words "of it," though not in the original, are a fair and legitimate interpretation of its meaning. Whether they are retained or not, the natural and grammatical interpretation is that it was the visit to Shechem, just before mentioned, of which Jeroboam heard. But according to our received text, Jeroboam was one of the deputation which met king Rehoboam at Shechem. It has been found necessary, consequently, to understand the words of the death of Solomon, which has been related in 1 Kings 11:43. So the Vulgate, Audita morte ejus. Similarly the LXX. Cod. Vat. inserts the substance of this verse as part of 1 Kings 11:43. (The Cod. Alex. follows the Hebrew.) But this interpretation is surely strained and unnatural] (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;) [The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 10:1-19. has here, "And Jeroboam returned from Egypt" ( ויַּשָבָ יר ממץ instead of וַיֵּשֶׁב יר במץ). And as some copies of the LXX. have καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν ἱερο βοὰμ ἐξ αἰγύπτου and the Vulgate has "Reversus est de Aegypto," Dathe, Bähr, al. would adopt this reading here. It is true it involves but a slight change, and it may simplify the construction. But no change is really required, Bähr's objection, that in the text, as it stands, we have an unmeaning repetition, "He was still in Egypt… and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt," loses all its force if we understand Jeroboam to have continued his residence in Egypt (as the LXX. says he did) after hearing of Solomon's death. until summoned by the tribes to be their leader. In any case the repetition accords with Hebrew usage.]

1 Kings 12:3

That [Heb. and] they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came [It has been held that this verse is largely an interpolation. The LXX. Cod. Vat. has simply, "And the people spake unto king Rehoboam, saying." Of more importance, however, is the fact that it is at direct variance with verse 20, which places the appearance of Jeroboam on the scene after the revolt of the tribes. Indeed, these two verses can only be brought into agreement by the questionable device of understanding the "all Israel" of verse 20 very differently from the same expression in verse 1. If, however, we follow in this instance the LXX; which omits the name of Jeroboam both here and in verse 12 (and which thereby implies that he was not one of the deputation to Rehoboam, but, as verse 2 states, was at that time still in Egypt), the difficulty vanishes. Verse 20 then becomes the natural and logical continuation of verses 2, 3. "And Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt. And they sent and called him [to the country.]… And when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again [at their summons] they sent and called him unto the congregation," etc. And in favour of the omission of Jeroboam's name is the fact that the Hebrew text, both in verse 3 and in verse 12, betrays some little confusion. In verse 3, the Cethib has וַיָּבֹאוּ and וַיָּבֹוּ in verse 12, whereas the Keri has וַיָּבֹא in both cases. The words look, that is to say, as if a singular nominative had been subsequently introduced], and spake unto Rehoboam, saying.

1 Kings 12:4

Thy father made our yoke [see for the literal sense of the word, Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3, etc.; for its tropical use, Le Deuteronomy 26:13; Deuteronomy 28:48, etc.] grievous [Heb. heavy. Was this complaint a just one? It is one which occasions us some surprise, as the reign of Solomon had not only been glorious, but the people had apparently enjoyed the greatest plenty and prosperity (1 Kings 4:20, 1 Kings 4:25; cf. 1 Kings 8:66). Bishop Hall, Bähr, and other writers, consequently, who see in the fact that the ten tribes had chosen Jeroboam for their mouthpiece a settled determination on their part to revolt, affirm that their grievances were purely factitious. But we must not forget that, despite the unbroken peace (see Hall, "Contempl." 2:136) and general prosperity and affluence, the people had had one burden at least to bear which is always galling and vexatious, the burden of a conscription. It is by no means certain, though it is constantly assumed, and is not in itself improbable, that the taxes and imposts had been heavy, the passages alleged in support of that view (1 Kings 10:15, 1 Kings 10:25; 1 Kings 12:4, LXX.) being quite inconclusive. But while we have no right to speak of the, enormous exactions of the late king" (Stanley), we may be perfectly sure that such an establishment as his (1 Kings 4:22, 1 Kings 4:26) and such undertakings (1 Kings 6:14, 1 Kings 6:22; 1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 7:1-51.; 1 Kings 9:26, 1 Kings 9:17, 1 Kings 9:18) would be extremely costly, and that their cost was not altogether defrayed by the presents of subject princes (1 Kings 4:21; cf. 1 Kings 10:10, 1 Kings 10:14), the profits of the king's merchants (1 Kings 10:28), or the imports of the fleet (1 Kings 5:1-18 :21). But the people had certainly had to pay a more odious tribute, that of forced labour, of servile work (1 Kings 4:6, Hebrews; Hebrews 5:14; cf. 1 Kings 9:21. מַס is almost always used of a tribute rendered by labour, Gesen.) It is quite true that Solomon was not the first to institute this; that David had exacted it before him (2 Samuel 20:24); that the burden was one with which all subjects of the old-world monarchies, especially in the East, were familiar; and that in this case it had been imposed with peculiar considerateness (1 Kings 5:14). But it is none the less certain, when we consider the magnitude of Solomon's undertakings, and the number of men necessarily employed in executing them, that it must have involved some hardships and created much dissatisfaction; such results are inevitable in all conscriptions. "Forced labour has been amongst the causes leading to insurrection in many ages and countries. It alienated the people of Rome from the last Tarquin; it helped to bring about the French Revolution; and it was for many years one of the principal grievances of the Russian serfs" (Rawlinson). But we may find instances of its working perhaps as more Eastern, more closely illustrative of the text amongst the Fellahin of Egypt. "According to Pliny, 360,000 men had to work 20 years long at one pyramid" (Bähr). In the construction of the great Mahmoudieh canal, by Mehemet All, over 300,000 labourers were employed. They worked under the lash, and such were the fatigues and hardships of their life that many thousands died in the space of a few months (cf; too, Exodus 1:11 sqq.; Exodus 2:23]: now therefore make thou the grievous [Heb. hard, heavy] service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter [lit; "lighten somewhat from," etc.], and we will serve thee. [Their stipulations seem reasonable enough. Bähr, who says, "We cannot admit the complaint of too hard tribute work to be well founded," and Keil, who maintains that "there cannot have been any well-grounded occasion for complaint," surely forget that both the aged counsellors (verse 7) and also the writer of this book (verses 13-15) manifest some degree of sympathy with the complainants.]

1 Kings 12:5

And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days [so as to afford time for counsel and deliberation. It has been assumed that both the old and young advisers of Rehoboam had been taken by him, as part of his retinue, to Shechem (Bähr). But it is quite as likely that some of them were summoned from Jerusalem to advise him, and that the three days' delay was in order to give time for their attendance. It is a long day's journey (12 hours) from Nablus to Jerusalem. Three days, consequently, would just afford sufficient time for the purpose] then come again to me, And the people departed. [The peaceable departure, like the respect-tiff demand, contradicts the idea of a settled purpose to rebel.]

1 Kings 12:6

And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men [According to Bähr," the זְקֵנִים are not old people, but the elders." No doubt the word is constantly used, as in the expressions, "elders of Israel," "elders of the city," etc. (cf. πρεσβυτέροι, senatores (from senex), aldermen=elder men), without any reference to age; but this is not the case here, as the strong contrast with "young men" (1 Kings 12:8, 1 Kings 12:13, 1 Kings 12:14) proves] that stood before [see on 1 Kings 1:2] Solomon his father [among them, perhaps, were some of the "princes" of 1 Kings 4:2 sqq.] while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

1 Kings 12:7

And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them [Keil questions the propriety and expediency of this advice. He says, "The king could not become the עֶבֶד of the people without prejudicing the authority entrusted to him by God." But they do not propose that he should become their servant, except for one clay, and then only in the sense of making reasonable concessions. What they mean is this: "If thou wilt brook for once to accede to their terms instead of dictating thine own," etc. The form of their answer was probably suggested by the temper of the king. They saw what was passing in his mind, viz; that he would fain play the autocrat, and that he resented it exceedingly that his subjects, just as he had begun to taste the sweets of royalty, should presume to parley with him; and they say in effect, "You think that they are reversing your relations, that they are making you, their sovereign, their servant. Be it so. It is but for one day. Then they will be your slaves forever"], and answer them [i.e; favourably; grant their request; cf. Psalms 22:22; Psalms 65:6], and speak good words to them, then will they be thy servants forever. ["Thy servants," in opposition to "a servant" above; "forever" in opposition to "this day."]

1 Kings 12:8

But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given [Heb. counselled] him ["We can easily imagine that their proposal was not very agreeable to the rash and imperious young king, in whose veins Ammonite blood flowed" (Bähr) ], and consulted with the young men [see on verse 1. "The very change argues weakness.. Green wood is ever shrinking" (Hall)] that were grown up with him [possibly his companions in the harem], and which stood before him [i.e; as his courtiers and counsellors (of. verse 6). The old men were the counsellors of Solomon; the young men alone are spoken of as the ministers of Rehoboam.

1 Kings 12:9

And he said unto them, What counsel give ye [emphatic in the original] that we [it is noticeable how Rehoboam identifies these young men with himself. He employs a different expression when addressing the old men (1 Kings 12:6). The A.V. perhaps gives its force by the translation, "that I may answer," etc.; lit; "to answer"] may answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?

1 Kings 12:10

And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people [There is a certain amount of contemptuousness in the expression (cf. St. John 7:49) ] that spake unto thee [The repetition, "speak, spake," is probably not undesigned. It suggests the idea of retaliation, or that it was a piece of presumption on their part to have spoken at all], saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us [lit; from upon us]; thus shalt thou say unto them [This iteration is expressive of determination and resentment. We may read between the lines, "I would make short work with them, and teach them a lesson they will not forget"], My little finger ["Finger" is not in the original, but the meaning is indisputable] shall be [or is, עָבָה, strictly, was thicker. The LXX. has simply παχυτέρα] thicker than my father's loins. [A figurative and perhaps proverbial expression. The sense is clear. "My hand shall be heavier than my father's, my force greater than his, my weakness even stronger than his strength." The counsel of the young men is full of flattery, which would be acceptable to a young king.

1 Kings 12:11

And now whereas my father did lade you with [or, lay upon you] a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father chastised you with whips [It is probable that the expression is not entirely figurative. It is quite possible that the levies of Amorites, Hittites (1 Kings 9:20), etc; had been kept at their toils by the lash], but I will chastise you with scorpions. ["The very words have stings" (Hall). It is generally held that there is here "no allusion whatever to the animal, but to some instrument of scourging—unless, indeed, the expression is a mere figure". Perhaps it is safer to understand it as a figure of speech, although the scorpion, unlike the serpent, is little like, or adapted to use as, a lash. Probably it was in the pain the whip caused that the resemblance lay (Romans 9:5). All the commentators mention that the later Romans used a whip called a "scorpio," and cite Isidore (Orig. 5, 27) in proof. Gesenius, Keil, al. understand "whips with barbed points, like the point of a scorpion's sting;" the Rabbins, Virgae spinis instructae; others, the thorny stem of the eggplant, by some called the "scorpion plant." Compare our use of the word "cat." "The yoke and whips go together, and are the signs of labouring service (Ecclus. 30:26, or 33:27)" Bähr.]

1 Kings 12:12

So Jeroboam and [LXX. omits] all the people came to Rehoboam the third day ["Three days' expectation had warmed these smoking Israelites" (Hall) ], as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.

1 Kings 12:13

And the king answered the people [the omission of Jeroboam's name, though perhaps it cannot he pressed in argument, is noticeable] roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him.

1 Kings 12:14

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.

1 Kings 12:15

Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people, for the cause [or course of events; lit; turn] was from the Lord ["Quem Deus vult perdere, prius dementat." God did not inspire Rehoboam's proud and despotic reply, but used it for the accomplishment of His purpose, the partition of the kingdom (cf. Exodus 14:4; Matthew 26:24). God makes the wrath of man to praise Him], that [Heb. in order that] he might perform his saying, which the Lord spake by [Heb. in the hand of; cf. 1 Kings 14:18; 1 Kings 2:25, note] Ahijah the Shilonite [see on 1 Kings 11:11] unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

1 Kings 12:16

So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered [Heb. brought back word to; probably after some consultation amongst themselves] the king, saying, What portion have we in David? [Same expression as 2 Samuel 20:1. The words, interpreted by this passage and 2 Samuel 19:43, mean, "Since we have no kindness or fairness from David's seed, what is his house to us? Why render homage to his son? We receive nought from him, why yield aught to him?"] neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse [i.e; "his tribe is not ours; his interests are not ours." Bähr sees in the expression "son of Jesse" "an allusion to David's humbler descent," but surely without reason. It is simply a periphrasis for the sake of the parallelism. The rhythm almost elevates the words to the rank of poetry]: to your tents, O Israel [lit; thy tents, Or dwellings; i.e; "Disperse to your homes (see 1 Kings 8:66; and cf. 2 Samuel 18:17; 2 Samuel 19:8; 2 Samuel 20:1), and prepare for war." אֹהֶל, which means primarily a "tent," has for its secondary meaning, "habitation," "home." This cry—the Marseillaise of Israel—probably had its origin at a time when the people dwelt in tents, viz; in the march through the desert (see Joshua 22:4; Numbers 1:52; Numbers 9:18; Numbers 16:26) ]. Now see to thine own house, David [i.e; let the seed of David henceforth reign over the tribe of Judah, if it can. It shall govern the other tribes no longer. "It is not a threat of war, but a warning against interference" (Rawlinson). רָאָה has the meaning of "look after," "care for." "David, the tribe father, is mentioned in place of his family" (Keil) ]. So Israel departed unto their [lit; his] tents [see note on 2 Samuel 8:1-18 :66].

1 Kings 12:17

But as for the children of Israel which dwelt In the cities of Judah [i.e; "the Israelites proper or members of other tribes, who happened to be settled within the limits of the land of Judah" (cf. 1 Kings 12:23). A number of Simeonites were (Rawlinson) certainly among them (Joshua 19:1-9). The term "children of Israel" is henceforward to be understood in its restricted sense (see on 1 Kings 12:1). It cannot include the men of Judah], Rehoboam reigned over them.

1 Kings 12:18

Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute [Probably the same officer as the Adoniram of ch. 1 Kings 4:6. For "Adoram," the LXX. and other versions read "Adoniram" here. It is curious that a person of the same name, Adoram (LXX. Adoniram), was over David's levy (2 Samuel 20:24). That there was a relationship, and that the office had descended from father to son, can hardly be doubted, but whether two persons or three are indicated it is impossible to say. It is of course just possible, though hardly likely that one and the same person (Ewald) can have been superintendent of servile work under David, Solomon, and Rehoboam. It is generally assumed that the young king sent this officer "to treat with the rebels and to appease them, as Josephus expressly says" (Bähr). It seems quite as likely that he was sent to coerce them, or to collect the taxes, as a summary way of showing that the king meant to enforce his rights and was not moved by their words. For it is hardly probable that such a proud and headstrong prince as Rehoboam would stoop, especially after the confident threats which he had just uttered, to parley with rebels. Such a man, guided by such counsellors, and inflated with a sense of his own power and importance, would naturally think of force rather than of conciliation or concessions. He would be for trying his whips of scorpions. And if conciliation had been his object, it is hardly likely that he would have employed Adoram, the superintendent of the levy, a man who would naturally be obnoxious to the people, to effect it. Moreover the sequel—Adoram's tragical end—also favours the supposition that he was sent, not "to arrange some alleviation of their burdens" (Rawlinson), but to carry out the high-handed policy Of the king]; and all Israel stoned him with stones ["With one exception, this was a bloodless revolution" (Stanley). It has been remarked that the practice of stoning is first heard of in the stony desert (Arabia Petraea). But in reality it is older than the date of the Exodus, as Exodus 8:26 shows. And it is an obvious and ready and summary way of despatching obnoxious persons (cf. Exodus 17:4; 1 Samuel 30:6; 1 Kings 21:10). It is to this day a favourite method of the East for testifying hatred and intolerance], that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed [So the LXX; ἔφθασεν. The Hebrew literally means, as margin, "strengthened himeself." But the A.V. gives the practical force of the word. He bestirred himself; he lost no time; the death of Adoram showed him the danger of a moment's delay. "He saw those stones were thrown at him in his Adoram" (Hall).] to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.

1 Kings 12:19

So Israel rebelled [lit; fell away (marg.) The common secondary meaning of the word is to transgress. Its use here may perhaps suggest that their rebellion was not without sin] against the house of David unto this day (see on 1 Kings 8:8)].

1 Kings 12:20

And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again [These words are hardly consistent with the idea that Jeroboam had been from the first the spokesman of "all Israel" in their interviews with Rehoboam. If, however, the received text of 1 Kings 12:8, 1 Kings 12:12 is retained (see on 1 Kings 12:3), then we must understand the "all Israel" in 1 Kings 12:1 of the representatives of the different tribes, and here, of the entire nation who had heard from its representatives, on their return to their homes (1 Kings 12:16), of the presence of Jeroboam in the country], that they sent and called him unto the congregation [Where and when this gathering was held we are not informed. Probably it was at Shechem, and soon after Rehoboam's flight. After the open and irreparable breach which they had made (1 Kings 12:18), the leaders of the tribes would naturally assemble at once to concert measures for their defence and future government], and made him king [by anointing. Note on 1 Kings 12:1] over all Israel [This public and formal consecration of Jeroboam completed the secession of the northern tribes. Was this secession sinful? Bähr, Keil, and others, who start from the assumption that secession was determined upon even before Rehoboam came to Shechem, and that the complaints of the people respecting the grievous service to which they had been subjected by Solomon were groundless, naturally conclude that it was altogether treasonable and unjustifiable. But is this conclusion borne out by the facts? We may readily admit that the schism was not accomplished without sin: we cannot but allow that Israel acted with undue precipitation, and that Rehoboam, who was "young and tenderhearted," was entitled, for David's and Solomon's sake, as well as his own, to greater forbearance and consideration, and it is almost certain that both the "envy of Ephraim" and the ambition of Jeroboam largely influenced the result. At the same time, it is to be remembered that the division of the kingdom was ordained of God, and that the people had just cause of complaint, if not, indeed, sufficient warrant for resistance, in the arbitrary and insolent rejection of their petition by the young king. No law of God requires men to yield themselves up without a struggle to such cruel and abject slavery as Rehoboam threatened these men with. They judged—and who shall say unreasonably?—from his words that they had only tyranny and cruelty to expect at his hands, and what wonder if they stood on their defence? They are only to be blamed because they did more. But lawful resistance not uncommonly ripens into unlawful rebellion]: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only. [This general statement is qualified immediately afterwards (1 Kings 12:21). The tribe of Benjamin, "the smallest of the tribes of Israel" (1 Samuel 9:21), "little Benjamin" (Psalms 68:27), is here omitted as of comparatively small account. Exact precision has never characterized Oriental writers. There is no suspicion of untruth: it is the genius of the people to

"disdain the lore,

Of nicely calculated less and more."

It may be added here that Edom remained under the sway of Judah until the reign of Jehoram (2 Kings 8:20), just as Moab and other portions of Solomon's empire for a considerable period formed part of the new kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 1:1; 2 Kings 3:4, 2 Kings 3:5).]

1 Kings 12:21

And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah with [Heb. and] the tribe of Benjamin, [It is at first sight somewhat surprising that Benjamin, so long the rival of Judah, and which had so long resisted the rule of David, should on this occasion have detached itself from the leadership of Ephraim, its near and powerful neighbour, and a tribe, too, with which it had a sort of hereditary connexion. That a sort of jealousy existed at one time between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, consequent, no doubt, on the transference of the sceptre from the house of Saul to that of David, is very evident. A thousand men of Benjamin constituted the following of the rebel Shimei, (2 Samuel 19:17). The rising of Sheba the Benjamite, again (2 Samuel 20:1), proves that the enmity and discontent were not even then subdued. But when the ten tribes fell away, Benjamin seems never to have faltered in its allegiance. The change is easily accounted for. It was the glory of Benjamin that Jerusalem, the joy of the whole earth, the civil and religious capital of the nation, was largely within its border. "The city of the Jebusite" was in the lot of Benjamin (Joshua 18:28). But it was also on the boundary line of Judah. This fact had, no doubt, brought the two tribes into close contact, and had given them interests in common, in fact had "riveted them together as by a cramp"; and now Benjamin could not fail to see that separation from Judah would mean the loss of Jerusalem (which would be largely peopled by the men of Judah, David's tribe, and would be practically in their hands), while adhesion to Ephraim would not prevent the establishment of another sanctuary further north. The traditions of fifty years, consequently, and the common interest in the capital, prevailed over hereditary ties and ancient feuds, and decided Benjamin to cast in its lot with Judah;the more so, as the heads of this tribe may have felt, after once furnishing Israel with its king, as jealous of Ephraim as they had once been of Judah. It must not be forgotten, however, that some portions of Benjamin, including Bethel, Gilgal, and Jericho, were incorporated in the northern kingdom (Ewald) ], an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men [the LXX. has ἑκατὸν καὶ ἐὶκοσι=120,000, but the larger number need create no astonishment. At the time of David's census, the men of Judah numbered—if the figures can be depended on—500,000, while Abijah could muster some 18 years afterwards an army of 400,000 (2 Chronicles 13:3) ], which were warriors [lit; making war], to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. [It is characteristic of Rehoboam that he proposes forthwith to subdue the rebellious tribes by force. Probably he had no idea to what extent the tribes would prove disloyal.]

1 Kings 12:22

But the word of God came unto Shemaiah [This part of the history is probably derived from the "book" which this prophet wrote (2 Chronicles 12:15). When Keil describes him as "a prophet who is not mentioned again," he has surely overlooked 2 Chronicles 12:7, 2 Chronicles 12:8, where we find him prophesying with reference to the army of Shishak], the man of God [a common expression in the books of Kings. It rarely occurs in the other Scriptures. This designation is not altogether synonymous with "prophet." It is used, for example, of angels ( 13:6, 13:8), of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1), and of David (2 Chronicles 8:14), and would embrace any minister or servant of God, while נָבִיא is restricted to the teaching order. There were false prophets, but no false men of God. It is also worth considering whether the name of prophet may not have been practically restricted to, or bestowed by preference on, those who had received a prophetic training, the "sons of the prophets" who had been taught in the schools. Cf. 1 Samuel 10:5-12; 1 Samuel 19:20; Amos 7:14], saying.

1 Kings 12:23

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 ["the children of Israel" mentioned in 1 Kings 12:17, where see note], saying.

1 Kings 12:24

Thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren [a timely reminder of the unity of the race, notwithstanding the division of the kingdom] the children of Israel: return every man to his house: for this thing [i.e; the division, rupture] is [lit; was] from me. [A prophet of Judah now confirms what a prophet of Israel had already announced]. They hearkened therefore unto the word of the Lord, and returned [not "because 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" (Bähr), but because of the "word of the Lord." It was the remonstrance of the prophet alone restrained them. They knew their numerical inferiority before, but they nevertheless mustered for battle] to depart [a common Hebraism. The phrase in 2 Chronicles 11:4, יָשׁוּבוּ מִלֶּכֶת "they returned from going," was probably designed as an explanation], according to the word of the Lord.

At this point the Vat. LXX. inserts along addition, which differs from, and indeed contradicts, the Hebrew text in some important particulars. Rehoboam is represented as 16 years of age (Hebrews 40), as reigning 12 years (Hebrews 17); his mother is Naanan (Heb. Naamah), and is the daughter of Ana, son of Nahash, king of Ammon. Jeroboam is described as son of Sarira, a harlot. He is appointed by Solomon superintendent of the levy of Ephraim, and builds for him a city Sarira, and also completes the circumvallation of Jerusalem. He has 300 chariots and aims at royalty. Solomon seeking to slay him, he flees to Shishak, king of Egypt, who treats him with distinction, giving him the sister of his own wife in marriage. Here his son Abijah is born, when Rehoboam has been, something like a year upon the throne. After his birth, Jeroboam asks a second time to be released: he returns to his own country, takes up his abode at Sarira, fortifies it, and gathers the tribe of Ephraim round him. Here Abijah falls sick, and the visit to the prophet, narrated in 2 Chronicles 14:1-15; takes place. The child dies; there is general mourning, after which Jeroboam goes to Shechem, and collects the tribes. Here the prophet Shemaiah (not Ahijah) tears a new garment in twelve pieces, gives him ten, and promises him the dominion over ten tribes. After which follow the events of 2 Chronicles 14:5 -24 of this chapter.

The great circumstantiality of this narrative has led some scholars—Dean Stanley among them—to prefer it before the Hebrew version. But its details will not bear careful examination, and there is little doubt that it is a compilation of later date. Its untrustworthiness has been well shown among others by Rawlinson, Speaker's Commentary in loc. But he omits to notice what is perhaps its strongest condemnation, viz; that this LXX. addition is in conflict with the LXX. (and Hebrews) text of 2 Chronicles 11:1-23. The account of Jeroboam's marriage with the sister of the queen, e.g; is manifestly a variation of the history of Hadad (2 Chronicles 11:1-23. 2 Chronicles 11:19; see also 2 Chronicles 11:22). Nor does it harmonize with the preceding history of this chapter, as given by the LXX.


1 Kings 12:13-15

Judicial Infatuation.

It is impossible to read this history of the great rebellion, even at the present day, without a certain feeling of sadness. We see here a young prince, heir to one of the greatest empires of antiquity, the inheritor of an illustrious and unequalled name, with all the advantages which the glory and greatness of his father could give him, reaping the benefits of a long peace, his coffers full of money, his cities filled with all manner of store, his fleets ploughing the sea, his army guarding his frontier; we see him wantonly flinging these singular advantages away from him, and absolutely courting his own destruction and the dismemberment of his kingdom. We see a position which has had but few, if any, parallels recklessly sacrificed for the lack of a few conciliatory words. It needed but the slenderest modicum of common sense and all would have gone well. He had but to stoop for one day in order to conquer forever (1 Kings 12:7). But no; we hear him instead hurling opprobrious words at the spokesmen of the ten tribes, and forthwith the land is ablaze with insurrection. He madly talks of the might of his little finger, of whips and scorpions, and from that hour his kingdom is divided; the holy people are ranged under hostile banners, and the way is opened for the schism in the Church. We talk sometimes of men who dance on the edge of a volcano, and we have read of Nero fiddling while Rome was burning, but it may be questioned whether history affords a more pitiable instance of folly and infatuation than this. And it was such infatuation that we can hardly resist the conclusion that it was, somehow, retributive and judicial. "Who would not have looked any whither for the cause of this evil, rather than to heaven? Yet the holy God challenges it to Himself" (Bp. Hall). "The cause was from the Lord."

It is well that we should understand, however, that this gross infatuation was only one out of many factors which produced the disruption. The division of the kingdom—the first act in the long drama of retribution for the sin of Solomon—was to a large extent the natural result of the rule and policy of Solomon. No doubt of all the causes of revolt the prophecy of Ahijah was the most influential. It was that "beginning" which, as Aristotle sagely remarks, is often the larger half. Possibly but for that, Israel's "winter of discontent" would have been "made glorious by the summer sun" of the accession of a young prince. Probably but for that, Jeroboam would never have "lifted up his hand against the king." But we must not shut our eyes to the fact that the people had had a "heavy yoke" to hear. Rehoboam himself confessed to this (1 Kings 12:14). It is idle to say that their demands betray a foregone conclusion to revolt. The contrary is distinctly implied in 1 Kings 12:4, 1 Kings 12:7. Nor is it the fact that the rebellion was wholly due to the jealousy of Ephraim, for that proud tribe had readily acquiesced in the supremacy of Judah during the reign of David. Indeed, the rebellion is almost inexplicable, except on the supposition that, the people had suffered real hardships, and carried heavy burdens during Solomon s reign. Men do not soon forget the glories of such an empire as his, and do not wantonly tear it asunder, and reduce it to impotence, unless they have had substantial grievances. But in this case, so many were their grounds of disaffection that, remembering that Jeroboam, who no doubt appeared to them in the light of a champion and tribune of the people, was in reserve, should they need his services, it only needed the infatuation of Rehoboam to kindle the smouldering embers of discontent into a flame.

And when we see in this inconceivable infatuation the immediate cause of the disruption, we must still remember how it was that Rehoboam came to be capable of such egregious folly. Are we to suppose that he was expressly blinded for the occasion? Is it implied that, like Saul, an evil spirit from the Lord troubled him, or that, like Ahab, he was the victim of heaven-sent delusions? Is it not rather enough to believe that he was simply left to himself, to be the sport of his own folly and pride? His infatuation would still be judicial, if we saw in it, not the strange perversity of a moment, but the spontaneous outcome of his birth and education. Indeed, in that case, it would be still more conspicuously the just and appropriate retribution for his father's sin. It was because of Solomon's foreign wives, and the idolatries which, with his sanction, they practised, that Solomon's empire was to be torn from his son (1 Kings 11:33). And now we find that the dismemberment of this empire was brought about by the son of one of these strange women—the child of an unregenerate Ammonitess. It has been said that "every great man is the son of his mother."£ The same remark might be made of every great fool. It was probably because Naamah was what she was that Rehoboam was what he was. "The two worst men in my parish," said a clergyman, "are what their mothers have made them." We could not expect much character, not to speak of wisdom, in Solomon's mistresses, who were chosen for their charms, and whoso cloistered life, amid the intrigues, and follies, and pettinesses of the harem, did not fit them to be the mothers of kings. What knowledge of the world or of men, what honour, what common sense could we hope to find in one brought up under such influences? The hearing of Rehoboam is precisely the bearing we should expect as the result of the training of an Eastern harem. It appears, consequently, that we may justly regard his infatuation as judicial, not so much in the sense of being inspired for the moment, but as being the natural consequence of his parents' folly and sin. But let us now consider what shape this same infatuation took: let us separate it into its constituent parts, that we may the better understand Rehoboam's character, and see the workings of his mind. Observe—

I. HIS ENTIRE UNCONSCIOUSNESS OF DANGER. There were not wanting, to those who could read the signs of the times, many indications of peril. It was a "significant hint" that Shechem had been selected for his coronation; that the tribes insisted on a conference; that instead of acclamations he was met with stipulations. It was a presage of danger that their first words to Solomon's son, to David's grandson, were of a "heavy yoke" and a grievous burden. It was still more ominous that Jeroboam had already raised the standard of revolt, and that this arch rebel—according to the received text, but see on 1 Kings 12:3, 1 Kings 12:20—was present among the malcontents. Even if he had not at that time been recalled from Egypt, still Rehoboam knew full well that he was there, and ready to rebel again if opportunity offered. All these were mutterings of the coming storm, and no one who was not a fool could have failed to perceive their import.

II. HIS VACILLATION AND IRRESOLUTION. Bishop Hall observes that his stipulating top three days in which to consider their demand was the only word he spoke which argued wisdom. Matthew Henry, on the other hand, thinks that it was "impolitic to take time to consider," and it may well be doubted whether this was not really a false and dangerous move. Had he bluntly refused all concessions and laid hands on the ringleaders, it is very probable that such a display of energy would have quelled the spirit of insurrection. Or had he graciously and instantly promised a redress of their grievances, he would have preserved his crown. But this delay was dangerous. It set them a-thinking what they would do in case of a refusal. A Fabian policy has saved some states, no doubt; but how many has it destroyed? And if, as has been suggested (on verse 5), the object of the three days' delay was that he might summon his young companions to his side, its unwisdom is still more apparent.

III. HIS PRIDE AND OBSTINACY. It was pride, not mental incapacity, led him to reject the counsel of the old men and seek for further advice. It was because it went against the grain to be a "servant," even for one day. That they should have presumed to ask concessions, or to parley with him at all, was an offence in his eyes. It is easy to read his vexation between the lines. With his high-flown notions of Divine right, with the characteristic contempt of an autocrat for the masses, it was mortifying to find his subjects bandying words with him. We may be pretty sure that, had the old men advised "whips of scorpions," etc; we should have heard of no further consultation. The pride of Solomon and the pretensions of Naamah reappear in their son.

IV. HIS FOLLY. This, which is conspicuous all the way through, is especially manifest in

We might also instance the threats to which he stooped, and the mission of Adoram, but these come more appropriately under—

V. HIS INSOLENCE AND DEFIANCE. Had he wished to provoke a rebellion, he could not have taken more effectual means to secure the end. "I will add to your yoke." "I will chastise you with scorpions." What cry could he possibly expect in return, except a war cry, such as he presently heard? If he had meant to punish, he should surely have held his tongue and used his hands. To boast of what he would do is like the Chinese warrior, who thinks to disperse his enemies by a ferocious shout. And to send Adoram, not to make overtures of peace—Rehoboam's folly would hardly go so far as to select him for such a mission—but, as it would seem, to collect tribute or to make a show of his authority, why, if he had designed to make the breach irreparable, and to stamp out the last faint hope of reconciliation, he could not have done more. It was the act of a spoilt child, it was the coming out in the flesh of what was bred in the bone.

Amongst the lessons this history teaches are these:

"A pebble in the streamlet's source,

Hath turned the course of many a river;

A dewdrop on the baby plant,

Hath warped the giant oak forever."


1 Kings 12:1-5

The Dead and the Living.

"The king is dead; long live the king!" This paradox expresses an important truth. Bathsheba recognized it when David on his deathbed promised her that Solomon, her son, should succeed him on the throne, and she said, "Let my lord king David live forever" (1 Kings 1:31).


1. His active form is no longer seen.

2. Where is the disembodied spirit?

II. BUT HE SURVIVES IN REHOBOAM. This fact is the ground of—

1. Rehoboam's claim to the throne.

2. The nation's suit to the claimant.


1. A new individual appears.

2. New relationships have therefore to be formed.

1 Kings 12:6-11

Israel's Magna Charta.

The question submitted to Rehoboam at Shechem concerned the constitution of the monarchy. Hitherto there had been no constitution defining the rights of the people and limiting the power of the crown. Rehoboam took three days to deliberate upon the people's Bill of Rights, and in that interval took counsel. The old men who stood before Solomon advised concession, while the young ones, who had grown up with him, recommended resistance. Wisdom was with the ancients.


1. Because it recognises their rights.

2. respects their happiness.


1. It encourages his virtues.

2. It gives stability to his throne.


1. The young counsellors give no reasons.

2. But may there not be a benevolant autocracy?

1 Kings 12:12-15


"Whom the gods mean to destroy they first infatuate." Such was the observation of a heathen philosopher; and it is true, only that the infatuators are devils, and God permits. The text furnishes a case in point. What but infatuation could have prompted Rehoboam to have acted so insanely? It is seen—


1. They assembled to honour him.

2. Their reservation was not unreasonable.


1. Respecting his father's administration.

2. Respecting his own.


1. It was deliberately given.

2. It was advisedly given.

3. He trusted in his fortune.

1 Kings 12:16-20

The Revolution.

The unconciliatory, insulting, insane conduct of Rehoboam in rejecting the Bill of Rights of the people of Israel provoked a revolution in the state. This is recorded in the text, in which we learn that—


1. This act was done in haste.

2. It was done in anger.

3. But their anger carried them too far.


1. Between these acts there was an interval.

2. But Rehoboam's .folly hastened the sequel

3. They now completed the revolution.

1 Kings 12:21-24

The Message of Shemaiah.

In the order of Providence the words of the prophet Ahijah became so far translated into history, that ten of the tribes of Israel had revolted from the son of Solomon and had made the son of Nebat their king. Rehoboam, unwilling to lose so important a portion of his kingdom, was now mustering a formidable army to reduce them to submission. At this juncture the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah. Let us consider—


1. It was the word of Jehovah.

2. It came by the hand of Shemaiah.

3. It came to the whole community.

4. It commanded peace.


1. They hearkened to the word.

2. They returned to their houses.


1 Kings 12:12-16

The rending of the kingdom.

The name of Rehoboam is remarkable as seen in the light of the facts of his history. The "enlarger of the kingdom" becomes the chief instrument in its disruption. The one strong nation, the throne of which he inherited from his father, is changed by his folly into two comparatively weak and distracted kingdoms, which maintain towards each other an attitude of perpetual jealousy and strife. The revolt of the ten tribes was a calamity from the ill effects of which the land never recovered. Both politically and religiously the unity of the chosen people was hopelessly broken, and the career of each separate division became henceforth one of ever deepening corruption. The northern kingdom was governed for two hundred and fifty years by a succession of men who followed only too closely in the steps of "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." Their reigns were little else than a story of crime and bloodshed and confusion. And though the history of Judah was not quite so dark, it tells very much the same tale. Few of its kings were wholly free from the prevalent wickedness. The efforts of the noblest of them, aided by all the moral influence of a long line of inspired prophets, were powerless to arrest the downfall of the state; till at last, after three hundred and eighty years, it sunk into the shame and misery of the Captivity. How can it be said of all this, that "The cause was from the Lord"? Look

I. THE HUMAN ELEMENT. The rending of the kingdom was not a sudden event that came without warning. As in all such cases, a variety of circumstances prepared the way for it. There were slumbering sources of mischief, certain conditions of thought and feeling, specially old jealousies between the tribes of Ephraim and Judah, that made it inevitable. But having regard to the nearer occasions, note

"Our deeds still travel with us from afar,

And what we have been makes us what we are"—

so in the line of succeeding generations. Germs of evil sown by the fathers spring up among their children. There is a conservation of moral forces as of material. Let a corrupting power be once set in motion, and, though hidden for awhile, it is sure to appear again in some riper and more extended form. The nation retains its visible unity under Solomon, but when the charm of his personal reign is over the disintegrating work that has been going on beneath the surface is made manifest.

II. THE DIVINE ELEMENT. This is seen in two respects.


1 Kings 12:13, 1 Kings 12:14

Rehoboam's Folly.

Such madness is scarcely credible in the son of Solomon. These two kings present a remarkable contrast. Solomon at twenty years of age is the wisest man of his times, Rehoboam his son, at forty, is unfit to rule himself or his people. Wisdom is not by descent, but is the gift of God. Describe the scene in the chapter: the visit of Rehoboam to Shechem, probably with a view to conciliate the ten tribes; the complaint of the people; the two councils of the king; the maddening effect of his reply. The study of small and foolish men is advantageous, as well as the study of the great and wise, that by their follies we may be warned. Rehoboam's faults he on the surface, as would be natural in so shallow a character as his, A careful study of the chapter reveals to us the following.

I. REHOBOAM'S FEEBLENESS OF CHARACTER. We should expect of one who succeeded to the throne in the prime of his life some clear notions of the policy he would pursue. Brought up in a court to which the rulers of other peoples came (1 Kings 10:24), over which the wisest king of that age ruled, he was rich in natural advantages. He could also have discovered for himself the condition of the people, their causes of complaint, etc. Had he given himself to such thought he would have been prepared for prompt and resolute action on his accession. Instead of this he seems helpless; turns now to these and now to those for counsel, and has not even enough wisdom to weigh the value of advice when it is given. "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel," is a law of far-reaching application. Amongst the virtues we should inculcate in our children is that of sober self-reliance. It may be fostered in the home with safety and advantage. Trust a child with something which he is free to use or abuse, in order to test him, and develop in him this grace. Probably Rehoboam had been brought up in the harem, and so had the heart of a child, with the years of a man. All gifts must be exercised to increase their value. "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways," and an example of this lies before us.

II. REHOBOAM'S CONTEMPT OF EXPERIENCE. He consulted the old advisers of Solomon, it is true, but clearly for the look of the thing only. Directly after speaking with "the responsible ministers of the crown," he turned to the courtiers, who were far less able to advise in such a crisis. Job says, "With the ancients is wisdom; and in length of days understanding." This is not always true. A man may be old without being wise, he may go through many experiences without being experienced. Still, other things being equal, a long study of affairs gives knowledge and discretion. It would clearly be so, with men chosen by the wise Solomon. Besides, those who have already won their honours are more disinterested than those who are ambitiously seeking to win them; and those whose reputations are high are more careful to guard themselves against folly than those who have no reputation to lose. [Found on such principles the duties of submission to authority, of reverence to age, etc; which are the essentials of a happy home and of a peaceful society.]

III. REHOBOAM'S RESORT TO THE FOOLISH. The answer of the young men showed their folly. That such a spirit should exist is a proof that in the later years of Solomon the people about him had sadly deteriorated.

IV. REHOBOAM'S BOASTFULNESS OF HIS POWER. "My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins." A proverbial expression to denote that his power was greater than his father's. Such bragging is no sign of courage. At the first outbreak of rebellion, this boaster "made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem." A strong character expresses itself not in great words, but in great deeds. The boastful Peter fails, the silent Jn stands firm. The Pharisee is rejected, the publican justified. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he that exalteth himself shall be abased."

V. REHOBOAM'S ABUSE OF HIS AUTHORITY. "My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke," etc. This was not the speech of one who felt himself to be a shepherd of God's flock, but of one who assumed despotic authority. This was never permitted to a king of Israel, nor is it intended by God that any man should thus rule. It would be an evil to the ruler himself as well as to his people. Least of all is it to be tolerated in the Christian Church. The highest in ecclesiastical office are forbidden to be "lords over God's heritage," but are to be "examples to the flock." Christ said, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them… but ye shall not be so" (Luke 22:24-29).

VI. REHOBOAM'S NEGLECT OF PRAYER. How differently he began his reign from his father! Solomon went first to God; Rehoboam went hither and thither for counsel, but never turned to God at all. How often we act thus in our temporal perplexities, in our theological difficulties, etc. How sadly we forget the words, "If any of you lack wisdom let him ask of God," etc. (James 1:5-8). Throw the lurid light of this story on Proverbs 1:1-33; and make personal application of the warning given there.—A.R.

1 Kings 12:16

The Revolt.

This was the song of the insurrection. It is the Marseillaise of Israelitish history. We heard it first after the revolt of Absalom (2 Samuel 20:1). It appears to have originated with "Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite." The revolt described in our text was more serious, beginning as it did the ruin of Solomon's splendid kingdom. All such national events are worthy of study. Moral causes lie at the root of them all, and the hand of God is over them all. The moral and Divine are more clearly revealed in Old Testament history; hence in part its value. In tracing this great revolution to its causes, we do not forget, though we do not dwell upon, two factors to which our attention is called by Scripture—

We must remember, however, in regard to the former that God expressly declared that He would base future events on the king's obedience or disobedience to His law. And as to the ambitious designs of Jeroboam, they would all have been futile if (as God had foreseen) there had not been popular discontent, combined with princely folly. What, then, were the ultimate causes of the event described?

I. TRIBAL JEALOUSY. This had always existed. Ephraim and Judah had specially displayed it. The jealousy of Ephraim had asserted itself both against Gideon and Jephthah ( 8:1; 12:1). The pride of this tribe was fostered by such facts as these: Joshua sprung from it, Samuel was born within its borders, Saul was of Benjamin, hereditary with Joseph; its geographical position gave it power, etc. Hence, till David's time, the leadership of the nation was practically in the hands of Ephraim. He reigned seven years over Judah before he could obtain supremacy over the other tribes. He dealt wisely with those who belonged to Ephraim, selecting some of them for special favour, etc. Solomon, however, aggravated the discontent by his oppression towards the close of his reign, so that Rehoboam had no easy task before him. All was ripe for revolt.

1. National strength is impossible without national unity. Clans must lose their jealousies if they would become a strong people. The severance of the rich from the poor, the hostility between capital and labour, the disaffection of any section of the people must be a source of weakness, a sign of decadence.

2. The Church's power is sapped by sectarian hostility. There may be diversity in modes of work and worship, but amongst all Christians should be unity of spirit. "There are diversities of operations, but the same spirit." Each tribe may march through the wilderness with its own banner, but all must find their one centre in the Divine presence, and seek their one Canaan as a laud of rest. Isaiah foretells the day when "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (1 Kings 11:13).

II. HEAVY TAXATION. It affected the people's wealth, and still more painfully their personal labour. A more foolish step than that which Rehoboam took could scarcely be imagined. He sent to appease the people "Adoram, who was over the tribute;" the very man who represented the oppression they resented! Quem Dens vult perdere, prius dementat. Show how extravagance, disregard of the rights of others, unjust demands, carelessness of the interests of dependants, lead to disaster—in homes, in business, in national and ecclesiastical affairs. Illustrate this from history; the decline and fall of the Roman Empire; the dissolution of the formerly vast dependencies of Spain, etc. So if a Church demands too much, as Rome does, she loses all. The intelligent men of Roman Catholic countries are sceptics.

III. RELIGIOUS INDIFFERENCE. That this existed is evident from the ease with which Solomon set up the worship of Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh; and from the fact that Jeroboam, directly after the revolt, erected the calves at Bethel and Daniel J.D. Michaelis and others have sought to justify the people in their rebellion, but there can be no doubt that so far as they were concerned the revolt was criminal Neither in this nor in any other act of man does higher causality affect the morality of an act. They were anxious about the decrease of taxation, but not about the removal of idolatry. To them it mattered little whether Jehovah were worshipped or not. But it was to represent Him, to fulfil His purpose, to preserve His truth, that the kingdom existed. Indifference to God is destructive of the stability of human hopes, of the kingliness of human character, of the peace and security of human kingdoms. Christ has come into the world to arouse it from indifference, that all men may go out to greet Him as "King of kings, and Lord of lords." If you lose the kingdom of heaven it is because, like Rehoboam, you throw it away. The lost opportunity never came to him again. He was forbidden to try to recover by force what he sacrificed by folly (verse 24). Over him and over many a man the lament may be heard," Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes."—A.R.


1 Kings 12:1-20

The accomplishment of the predicted judgment.


1. It was a time of joyous expectation. Nothing betokened the nearness of rebellion and disaster. All Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. There was no dispute about the succession, and no unwillingness to own the sway of the house of David. All was hopeful. Danger may lurk in joy like a venomous insect in a flower.

2. The people's request was reasonable. Rehoboam could shield himself under no plea of Divine right. David was appointed to shepherd Israel, and the people had a right to protest against their burdens.

3. Their demand seems to have been urged with moderation. There was as yet no determination to rebel. The issue lay with the king. It was to bear the stamp of his mind as well as theirs. There are moments that face us with a sudden demand to manifest the spirit that is in us and to make or mar our future. Should the demand come to thee today, what mark would be left, what work would be done?


1. The importance of the juncture was felt and owned. He took time for consideration. A good decision is nothing the worse of a calm review: a bad one needs it.

2. He sought counsel. We are helped by the light of others' judgment, but above all we need the direction of God.


1. A grave defect. Among all that is said of these three days there is no mention of his inquiring of the Lord, or lifting up one cry for guidance. There is pride and passion in us which only God can subdue: these retained are worse than all our foes; they can only harm us through the enemies we harbour within our breast.

2. The counsels of wisdom are rejected (1 Kings 12:7, 1 Kings 12:8).

3. The counsels of folly accepted (1 Kings 12:8-11). He was seeking for the reflection of his own proud, vengeful thought, and he now found it in the advice of those who were like minded. What we need is not the strengthening of our own judgment, but its correction by the utterance of love and righteousness and truth.


1. The shame of rejection and desertion (1 Kings 12:16).

2. His last attempt to assert his authority defeated (1 Kings 12:18).

3. His ignominious flight. He who might have won a kingdom has to flee for his life.

4. The separation of the ten tribes completed (1 Kings 12:19, 1 Kings 12:20). If Rehoboam had fled from the evil which was in himself, he would not have required to flee from his people. We give birth to the terrors which pursue us. There is but one flight possible from loss and death—the flight from sin.—U.

1 Kings 12:21-33

I. AN ERROR THAT COULD NOT BE REPAIRED (1 Kings 12:21-24). Rehoboam had zeal and strength behind him in his attempt to bring back the tribes by force. One hundred and eighty thousand men responded to his call; but all were dispersed at the lifting up of God's hand. The attempt was forbidden,

1. Because of the ties of kindred. These were forgotten by Rehoboam when he threatened the people with a heavier yoke. Tyranny is possible only in the denial of the brotherhood of man. It was forgotten now as he gathered his hosts together. Wars are impossible in the recognition of the brotherhood of man. This is God's word to the nations, to England as to the rest: "Ye shall not… fight against your brethren."

2. Because the loss was of God. "This thing is from Me." These two thoughts assuage anger and beget repentance; they who are against us are our brethren, and the blow is from our Father's hand. Our mistakes are permitted, and we eat their bitter fruit in God's righteous judgment. Keep the way of love and lowly dependence on God. Every other is full of mistake and irreparable loss.

II. THE BLINDNESS OF WORLDLY POLICY (1 Kings 12:25-33). Judged from a merely human standpoint, Jeroboam showed commendable foresight, and took effectual precautions against a great and possible danger. Yet he did not look far enough or high enough. The range of his vision did not embrace the mightiest of all forces. It shut out God, and every step he took ensured the destruction of the power he sought to guard,

1. His fear was unbelief. There did seem to be a danger in the recourse of the tribes to Jerusalem, but he had God's promise that he would build him a sure house if he would do that which was right in God's sight (1 Kings 11:38). Do not our fears go right in the face of the promises of God?

2. It was base forgetfulness of God's mercy. The Lord had fulfilled part of what He had said. The very circumstances in which the fear arose (the possession of the kingdom) were thus its answer. Our fears not only deny God's promises, but also the testimony of the past. Unbelief and ingratitude are the first steps in the path of sin (Romans 1:21).

3. His defiance of God. When unbelief has shut Him out of the heart, His commandments are lightly esteemed. To suit the exigencies of state, God's ordinances were overturned, other holy places were set up, the commandment against image worship broken, the priesthood and the feast time changed. Jeroboam's sin lives still in our statecraft, in the conduct of our business, etc. God's purpose regarding us and the world is nothing! His commandments are the only things that with safety can be disregarded!

4. His misdirected ingenuity. He cleverly takes advantage

Verses 25-33


THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, AND THE SCHISM IN THE CHURCH.—The historian, after describing the great rebellion of the Jewish people, proceeds, in the rest of this chapter, to relate the measures which the new king took to secure his position. These were both external and internal. The external means were the erection of fortresses; the internal, the provision of new sanctuaries, priests, and ordinances.

1 Kings 12:25

Then Jeroboam built [i.e; rebuilt or fortified, בָּנָה naturally has both meanings] Shechem [see on 1 Kings 12:1 and on 1 Kings 14:1] in Mount Ephraim [The Har-Ephraim, or mountain district of Ephraim (in Joshua 11:16 called the "Mountain of Israel;" cf. Joshua 17:15-18; 4:5; 10:1; 1 Samuel 1:1), is "the central mass of the hills of Palestine, nearly equidistant from the northern and southern boundary of the whole country", and the richest and most beautiful part of the land. "The tower of Sichem had been burnt down by Abimelech and the tower of Penuel had been destroyed by Gideon, 8:17" (Keil). The city of Shechem had been destroyed at the same time as the tower, but had no doubt been rebuilt, at least in part, otherwise it could hardly have been selected for Rehoboam's coronation. It was naturally Jeroboam's first care to strengthen his position by fortitying his capital, and the more so as this city would be particularly obnoxious to Rehoboam as the scene of the revolution; but why he should at the same time have rebuilt Penuel—Ewald thinks the seat of government was placed here—is not at first eight so obvious, as it lay beyond the Jordan (Genesis 32:22, Genesis 32:30; Genesis 33:17) and was therefore presumably outside the circle of hostilities, should such arise. Probably it was because this was the gate to his Trans-Jordanic territory. A tower commanding the fords of the Jordan would secure Reuben, Gad, etc; against invasion from Judah. It is also not unlikely that Jeroboam. who was the great castle builder of that age, had some fears of "hostile attacks from the north and northeast" (Keil), or thought of "the caravan road which led over Gilead to Damascus" (Wordsworth), and of which he would wish, for the sake of his revenue, to retain the control], and dwelt therein [He made it his first residence and capital]; and went out from thence [i.e; when he had secured one fortified city. He could hardly be certain as yet which side some of the tribes would take. It is also possible that some of the workmen who had built Shechem were afterwards employed on the fortification of Penuel], and built Penuel. [Bähr says, "There is no doubt that he built these fortifications by tribute labour, like Solomon." But is this quite so certain? The people after the revolt would naturally conclude that Rehoboam, of whose proud temper they had had such proof, would want to wreak his vengeance on the city which had rejected him, and the instinct of self-defence would lead them at once to rebuild their walls. And the newborn kingdom would also earnestly desire to possess a suitable capital. Thus their self-interest and enthusiasm alike would obviate the necessity for a conscription.]

1 Kings 12:26

And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David [It needed much less prescience than Jeroboam seems to have possessed to perceive that fortresses and armies would be of no avail for the defence of his realm, so long as Jerusalem remained the one sanctuary of the land. He clearly foresaw that if the people went up thither, as in time past, three times a year, to keep the feasts, the religious sentiment would in time reassert itself and sweep him and his new dynasty away. With one religion, one sanctuary, one priesthood, there could not long be two kingdoms. People who had so much in common would, sooner or later, complete the unity of their national life under a common sovereign. And we find, indeed, that so powerful were the attractions of the temple, and the religious system of which it was the centre, that "the priests and Levites that were in all Israel," together with the more devout laity, fell away to Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:13, 2 Chronicles 11:16), while the speech of Abijah on Mount Zemaraim (2 Chronicles 13:11), proves that others as well as Jeroboam were well aware that the old religion and the new kingdom could hardly coexist.]

1 Kings 12:27

If this people go up to do sacrifice [Heb. sacrifices] in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem [as the law of Moses ordained (Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 12:14; Deuteronomy 16:6, Deuteronomy 16:11)], then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord [The Syriac omits this word. The LXX. has πρὸς κύριον κὰι κύριον αὐτῶν], even unto Rehoboam king of Judah [When Wordsworth remarks that Jeroboam "here acknowledges Rehoboam as the 'lord' of the people," he surely forgets that these are not the actual words of Jeroboam, but the thoughts which the historian supposes him to have had (verse 26) ], and they shall kill me [as they would do, if they wished to return to Rehoboam's rule. Their first offering would be the head of the usurper, 2 Samuel 20:20, 2 Samuel 20:21; cf. 2 Samuel 4:7], and go again [lit; turn again, same word as above] to Rehoboam king of Judah.

1 Kings 12:28

Whereupon the king took counsel ["With his counsellors, or the heads of the nation who had helped him to the throne" (Keil). Bähr understands, "he reflected about it alone" (et excogitato consilio, Vulgate), alleging that so important a circumstance as the concurrence of the heads of the people in changing the system of worship would not have been passed over in silence. But while the text does not perhaps imply any formal deliberation with the elders, it is reasonable to suppose that Jeroboam, who owed his position to popular election, and who was far too sagacious not to follow the example of Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:6, 1 Kings 12:9), would summon others to advise him as to this critical and momentous step. Wordsworth refers to Isaiah 30:1, and says that "Jeroboam is the image and pattern of Machiavellian politicians." "Next to Ahithophel, I do not find that Israel yielded a craftier head than Jeroboam's" (Hall)], and made two calves [It is generally held that these were in imitation of, or were suggested by, the "golden calf" of Aaron (Exodus 32:2), and the close resemblance of Jeroboam's words (below), in inaugurating this new cultus, to Aaron's have been thought to prove it. But surely it has been overlooked that Jeroboam could hardly be so shortsighted and unwise as deliberately to reintroduce a worship which had provoked the "fierce wrath" (Isaiah 30:12) of God, and had nearly resulted in the extermination of the Jewish race. For of course neither Jeroboam nor his people could have forgotten the stern condemnation which Aaron's calf worship had received. The molten image ground to powder, the ashes mixed in the drink of the people, the slaughter of three thousand worshippers, etc; would assuredly have lived in the memories of the nation. A more impolitic step, consequently—one more certain to precipitate his ruin, by driving the whole nation into the arms of Judah—Jeroboam could not have taken, than to attempt any revival or imitation of the forbidden cultus of the desert. And it is as little likely that the worship of the calves was derived from the worship of Apis, as practised at Memphis, or of "Mnevis, the sacred calf of Heliopolis" (Stanley), though with both of these Jeroboam had recently been in contact. It would have been but a sorry recommendation in the eyes of Israel that the first act of the new king should be to introduce the hateful idolatry of Egypt into the land; and every consideration tends to show that the calf worship was not, and was not intended to be, idolatry, such as the worship of Egypt undoubtedly was. It is always carefully distinguished from idol worship by the historians and prophets. And the idea which Jeroboam wished to give his subjects was clearly this that, so far from introducing new gods or new sanctuaries, he was merely accommodating the old worship to the new state of things. He evidently felt that what he and his house had most to fear was, not the armies of Rehoboam but the ritual and religious associations of Jerusalem. His object, if he were wise, must therefore be to provide a substitute, a counterfeit worship. "I will give you," he virtually says, "at Bethel and Dan, old sanctuaries of our race long before Jerusalem usurped their place, those visible emblems of the heavenly powers such as are now found only in the temple. You too shall possess those mysterious forms which symbolize the Invisible, but you shall have them nearer home and easier of access." There can be little doubt, consequently, that the "calves" were imitations of the colossal cherubim of Solomon's temple, in which the ox or calf was probably the forma praecipua (1 Kings 6:23).] of gold [Hardly of solid gold. Possibly of. wood covered with gold plates, i.e; similar to the cherubim (1 Kings 6:23-28); probably of molten brass (see 1 Kings 14:9, and cf. Psalms 106:19), overlaid with gold; such images, in fact, as are described in Isaiah 40:19], and said unto them, It is too much for you [This translation, pace Keil, cannot be maintained. Nor can it be said that "the exact meaning of the original is doubtful" (Rawlinson), for a study of the passages where this phrase, רַב־לָכֶם occurs (see, e.g; Deuteronomy 1:6; Deuteronomy 2:8; Deuteronomy 3:26; and cf. Genesis 45:28; Exodus 9:28; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Kings 19:4) will convince the reader that it must be rendered here, "It is enough"—i.e; "you have gone long enough to a city which only owes its present position to the ambition of the tribe of Judah, and which is a standing testimony to your own inferiority; henceforth, desist." We have an exact parallel in Ezekiel 44:6; where the Authorized Version renders, "Let it suffice you." The LXX. supports this view by rendering ἱκανόυσθω ὑμῖν throughout. Vulgate, nolite ultra ascendere, etc.] to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods [rather "god," for Jeroboam had no idea of introducing polytheism. It is true he made two calves because of his two sanctuaries, but each was designed to represent the same object—the one God of Israel. The word is translated, gods" in Exodus 32:1, Exodus 32:4, Exodus 32:8, Exodus 32:23, Exodus 32:31; but as the reference is in every case to the one calf, it should be translated "god" there also. In Nehemiah's citation of the words (Nehemiah 9:18), the word is unmistakably singular. "This is thy god," etc. The words are not "exactly the same as the people used when setting up the golden calf" (Bähr). Jeroboam says, "Behold," etc.], O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. [It is at first sight somewhat difficult to resist the view, which is generally entertained, that Jeroboam, of set purpose, cited the ipsissima verba of the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 32:4). But a little reflection will show that it is much more difficult to believe that a monarch, circumstanced as Jeroboam was, could at the very outset of his career have acted in the teeth of history, and have committed the gross blunder, not to say wanton outrage, of deliberately connecting his new cult with the calf worship of the desert. He can hardly have dared, that is, to say, "This is no new religion, for this very form of worship our fathers used formerly in the desert, under the guidance of Aaron himself" (Seb. Schmidt, followed by Keil, al.) unless both he and his people alike—which is inconceivable—were ignorant of their nation's history recorded in Exodus 32:19-35. It has been argued by some that this action of Jeroboam and the ready compliance of the ten tribes, prove that the Pentateuch cannot then have been written. But, as Hengstenberg (cited by Wordsworth) rejoins, the same argument would lead to the conclusion that the Bible could not have been written in the dark ages, or, we might add, even at the present day. He can hardly have claimed, that is to say, to be reintroducing the calf worship, which God had so emphatically reprobated, unless he designed an open defiance of the Most High, and wished to shock all the religious instincts and convictions of his people. It is much more natural, consequently, to suppose, considering the very frequent recurrence, though sometimes in slightly different shapes, of the formula "the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 20:2; Exodus 29:45, Exodus 29:46; Le 19:36; 23:43; Exodus 25:38; Exodus 26:13, 45; Numbers 15:41; Numbers 16:13; Numbers 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:6, Deuteronomy 5:15; Deuteronomy 6:12; Deuteronomy 8:14; Deuteronomy 9:26; Joshua 24:6, Joshua 24:17; 6:8; 1 Samuel 8:8; 1 Samuel 10:18; 1 Kings 8:21, etc.) that the correspondence is accidental, the more so as Jeroboam does not quote the exact words, and that he has used a phrase which was constantly in their ears, insisting thereby that his calves were emblems of the God of their race, the God whose great glory it was that He had taken their nation out of the midst of another nation, etc. (Deuteronomy 4:34), and delivered them from a thraldom with which, perhaps, the tyranny of Rehoboam is indirectly compared. Or it there was any reference to the golden calf, it must have been depreciatory, as if to say," That was rank idolatry, and as such it was punished. That calf was an image of Apis. My calves are cherubic symbols, symbols such as He has Himself appointed, of the Great Deliverer of our race. Behold thy God, which really brought thee up," etc.]

1 Kings 12:29

And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Daniel [Two considerations seem to have influenced Jeroboam in his choice of these sites. First, both these places were in some sort sanctuaries already. Bethel was already a makom, or holy place, in the days of Abraham; was consecrated by the visions and altar of Jacob (Genesis 28:11-19; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:1, Genesis 35:7, Genesis 35:15), and by the ark having been there ( 20:26-28, Hebrews; cf. Jos; Ant; 5.2. 10). And though Dan (Joshua 19:47; 18:29; 20:1) can hardly have had as sacred a character as the "house of God and the gate of heaven" (Genesis 28:17) had, still it had its shrine and its schismatic priesthood. A grandson of Moses ( 18:13, true reading) had ministered there, and his sons were the priests of Dan still. Secondly, these localities would suit the convenience of his subjects, being respectively at the southern and northern extremities of the kingdom. And this, no doubt, was one reason why Dan was chosen in preference to other places, such as Shiloh, which, though more sacred, were less conveniently situated. A sanctuary at Dan would save the northern tribes many tedious journeys. It should be remarked that Bethel properly belonged to Benjamin (Joshua 18:13, Joshua 18:22), though it was also on the border of Ephraim; and it has been suggested that it was Jeroboam's selection of this place as a seat of the calf worship decided the tribe of Benjamin to follow the lead of Judah. But the narrative seems to imply that their choice had been made at an earlier period (verse 21), and the city would seem to have been long in the possession of the house of Joseph ( 1:22). It is now known as Beitin, and is one of the most naked and dreary spots in Palestine. "The place seems, as it were, turned to stone; and we can well imagine that the patriarch found nothing softer than a stone for his pillow." Conder, p. 252, who suggests that from the time of Abraham Bethel was a מָקוֹם, a sacred place merely (Genesis 28:11), and distinct from the adjoining city of Luz (verse 19).]

1 Kings 12:30

And this thing became a sin [It was in itself sinful, for it both set at nought the express prohibition of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:4), and also disregarded the one sanctuary of God's choice (Deuteronomy 12:5). And it led to other sins, e.g; the intrusion of a schismatic and irregular priesthood, and the performance of unauthorized rites, and to "an ever-deepening corruption of the national faith" (Ewald). Cf. Hosea 8:5; Hosea 13:2. But the meaning is, it became an occasion of sin to the people ("Quod fuit postea causa gravissimi peccati"—Vatab.) Jeroboam "made Israel to sin" (1 Kings 14:16; 1 Kings 15:26, etc.) It is difficult to conceive, in the face of these and similar words, how any one can seriously maintain that "the church of Israel was the national church" (Stanley, 2:264) ]: for the people went to worship before the one even unto Dan. [The people frequented both sanctuaries; why, then, is that at Dan especially mentioned? Some (Rawlinson, e.g.) have suggested that the text is here corrupt, and that we should read, "before the one to Bethel, and before the other to Dan." According to others, "the one" ( הָאֶחַד) refers to the double הָאֶחַד ("the one," "the other"); cf. verse 29. They would interpret, that is, "the people went to both, even to the distant Dan" (Bähr, Thenius). Keil would force the text and understand, "the people, even unto Dan," i.e; the people throughout the whole kingdom. Similarly, Wordsworth. Ewald understands "before the one" to mean כְזֶחַד i.e; "as one," sc. man. On the whole it is better to take the words as they stand, literally. It is quite conceivable that, at first, the people resorted almost exclusively to the Danite sanctuary. Having been for long years a seat of worship, and having probably its "house of high places," or temple (see below), already built, it would naturally be in a position to receive worshippers some time before Bethel was prepared for that purpose. Jeroboam's offering in person at Bethel (verse 32) which marks the inauguration of his new ritual there, may have been partly designed to attract worshippers to a shrine, which, as being nearer Jerusalem, or for some other reason, was neglected. But the verse is patient of another interpretation. It may intend to convey that the rebellious tribes, in their defiant disregard of the old order of things, the order now represented by a hostile kingdom, went en masse to the opposite point of the compass, even to the unhallowed and hitherto despised sanctuary of the Danites. The LXX. (Vat.) addition here is noticeable, "And they forsook the house of the Lord."]

1 Kings 12:31

And he made an house of high places [See on 1 Kings 3:2, and cf. 2 Kings 17:29. It is often assumed (Keil, Rawlinson, al. after Josephus) that Jeroboam built two temples for his cherubim, and the statement of the text, that he built one, is explained on the ground that the historian contrasts the "house of high places" with the "house of the Lord." Ewald, too, after 2 Kings 17:29, 2 Kings 17:32, understands the words as plural. But is it not more probable that a chapel or sanctuary already existed at Dan, where an irregular priesthood had ministered for more than four hundred years? This verse would then refer exclusively to Jeroboam's procedure at Bethel (see next verse). There he built a temple and ordained a number of priests, but Dan had both already. We know that the Danite priests carried on the calf worship to the time of the captivity ( 18:30). This "house of high places" has grown in Ewald's pages into "a splendid temple in Canaanite style"], and made priests of the lowest of the people [Heb. מִקְצוֹת "from the ends," i.e; from all classes, ex universe populo (Gesen.), and not, as the writer explains presently, from the tribe of Levi alone. Genesis 19:4, 18:2, Ezekiel 33:2, prove this to be the correct interpretation of the word. Rawlinson, who remarks that "Jeroboam could have no motive for specially selecting persons of low condition," does not thereby dispose of the A.V. rendering, for the historian might mean that some of Jeroboam's priests were of the lowest stamp, because he could find no others, or because he was so little scrupulous as to take them. "Leaden priests are well fitted to folder. deities" (Hall)], which were not of the sons of Levi. [Jeroboam would doubtless have been only too glad to have retained the services of the Levitical priests, but they went over in a body to Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:13). The statement of Ezekiel 33:14, that, "Jeroboam and his sons" had "cast them out," suggests that they had refused to take part in his new cult and that thereupon he banished them, and, no doubt, confiscated their possessions. The idea of Stanley, that "following the precedent of the deposition of Abiathar by Solomon, he removed from their places the whole of the sacerdotal order," is a wild conjecture for which Scripture affords not the slightest warrant.]

1 Kings 12:32

And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah [i.e; the Feast of Tabernacles, which was held on the 15th of the seventh month (of. 1 Kings 8:2). This was the great feast of the year, and, as the feast of harvest or ingathering, the most joyous. See on 1 Kings 8:1. Had Jeroboam provided no counter attraction to this great festive gathering in Judah he might have found it a formidable temptation to his subjects. The reason usually given for the alteration of the time—in defiance of the law, which expressly fixed it in the seventh month (Le 23:34, 39, 41)—is that the eighth would be more generally convenient in the north, where the harvest or vintage was a month later (Then; Keil), as affording more time for the ingathering. In favour of this view is the consideration that the Jews not unfrequently had to intercalate a month—a second Adar—into their year, because of the season being a late one. Some of the older commentators, e.g; Vatab; think this time was chosen as the anniversary of his secession, but this is pure conjecture, and such an association would be contrary to the genius of the Hebrew people. Keil maintains that Jeroboam's design was to "make the separation, in a religious point of view, as complete as possible." But we can hardly be expected to believe that he altered the month, for the sake of creating a distinction, but "retained the day of the month, the fifteenth, for the sake of the weak who took offence at his innovations" (Keil). The day was retained, as Bähr points out, because, the months being lunar, the fifteenth was the day of the full moon], and he offered [Heb. as marg; "and he went up," i.e; ascended the altar; LXX. ἀνέβη. the altar was always raised. It was probably approached by s slope, as Exodus 20:26 forbade steps, though it is by no means certain that they were not used even in Solomon's temple, and Jeroboam probably would have no scruples on such a minute point of ritual. It has been thought (Kitto, 4:147) that he was moved to officiate in person by the precedent of the Egyptian kings, who exercised priestly functions; but it is much more probable that he was guided by the example of Solomon at the dedication of the temple] upon [i.e; he stood upon the ledge or platform (called in the A.V. "compass," Exodus 27:5) in the middle of the altar] the altar. So did he in Bethel [i.e; the feast was held at one centre only, and at Bethel alone the king offered in person. But I venture to suggest that instead of כֵן, "so did he," etc; we should read כִי. The LXX. seem to have had this word before them— ἐπὶ τὸ θυσιαστήριον ὃ εποίησεν ἐν βαιθὴλ. And not only does this slight change bring the Hebrew into harmony with the LXX; but it also simplifies the construction. "He went up upon the altar which he made to sacrifice unto the calves which he made." The very tautology is instructive, as suggesting that altar, calves, and priests were all of Jeroboam's making, not of God's ordaining. The use of כי as a relative (= אֲשֶׁר) is strictly grammatical], sacrificing [marg; to sacrifice] unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel [Dan being already provided with its priesthood] the priests of the high places [i.e; of "the house of high places" (verse 31). Or it may be a contemptuous designation of Jeroboam's irregular priests] which he had made.

1 Kings 12:33

So he offered [Heb. went up, as before. This verse is really the introduction to the history of the next chapter] upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised [Josephus (Ant. 7.8. 5) seems unaware that this new feast was kept at a different date from the true Feast of Tabernacles. But these words are decisive] of his own heart [The Cethib has מִלְּבֹּד by which Maurer and Keil understand מִלְּבַד ("seoreum." But qu.) But the Keri מִלּבּוֹ is every way to be preferred, So LXX; ἀπὸ καρδίας αὑτοῦ. Similarly, Nehemiah 6:8]; and ordered [rather, kept, celebrated] a feast unto [Heb. for] the children of Israel: and he offered [went up] upon the altar, and burnt incense [Heb. to burn, etc. The context seems to imply that it was not incense, or not incense only, but the sacrifice, or sacrificial parts of the victim, that the king burned. See on 1 Kings 13:3 ( דֶּשֶׁן). And this meaning is justified by Le 1 Kings 1:9, 1 Kings 1:17; 1 Samuel 2:16; Amos 4:5, where the same word is used. It cannot be denied, however, that the word is generally used of incense, and it is very probable that both this and sacrifices were offered by Jeroboam on the same altar (cf. 1 Kings 11:8). We may perhaps see in Jeroboam's ministering in person, not only the design to invest the new ordinance with exceptional interest and splendour, but also the idea of encouraging his new priests to enter on their unauthorized functions with. out fear. The history, or even the traditions, of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-20.) and of Korah and his company (Numbers 16:40), and the threatenings of the law (Numbers 18:7, Numbers 18:22, cf. 2 Chronicles 26:20), may well have made them hesitate. To allay their fears the king undertakes to offer the first of the sacrifices. And that their fears of a Divine interposition were not groundless the sequel shows.]


1 Kings 12:30

The Sin of Jeroboam.

What was this sin, of which, from this time forward, the historian has so much to say? It is mentioned more than twenty times in Scripture. It casts its dark shadow across fifteen reigns of the kings of Israel. Its baleful influences were felt for more than two and a half centuries. It was the prime cause (2 Kings 17:21-28) of that captivity from which the ten tribes have never returned. Surely we ought to know what it was. And as one help to a right conclusion, let us first clearly understand what it was not.

I. IT WAS NOT THE SIN OF REBELLION. There may have been sin in the way which the rupture with Judah was brought about (see 2 Chronicles 13:6, 2 Chronicles 13:7), though that is by no means certain (notes on 1 Kings 12:19, 1 Kings 12:20). But even if Israel was set upon rebellion, and even if Jeroboam had rudely and wickedly precipitated the revolt, that cannot be "the sin" of which he is here and elsewhere accused. For, in the first place, later kings could not be held responsible for Jeroboam's conduct at the time of the disruption, i.e; they could not commit that sin of Jeroboam; and, secondly, the disruption itself was ordained of God (1 Kings 11:31 sqq.; 1 Kings 12:15; 2 Chronicles 11:4). 1 Kings 12:15, too, is decisive. "The cause was from the Lord." Those who sate on Jeroboam's throne, consequently, no less than the successors of Solomon, reigned de jure Divino. The former equally with the latter were the anointed of Heaven (2 Kings 9:3, 2 Kings 9:6). It was the Lord "raised up" (1 Kings 14:14) Baasha (1 Kings 15:28, 1 Kings 15:29), Zimri (1 Kings 16:12), Jehu (2 Kings 9:6), and the rest.

II. IT WAS NOT THE SIN OF GOING AFTER OTHER GODS. If this were the sin referred to here it would probably have been called "the sin of Solomon," for Solomon is twice charged with that sin (1 Kings 11:4, 1 Kings 11:10), whereas Jeroboam never went after Baal, or Ashtoreth, or Milcom. It is true the calves are once called "other gods" (1 Kings 14:9), but they are only so called in derision, and in 1 Kings 16:31 the sin of Jeroboam is expressly distinguished from the worship of other gods. It was probably Jeroboam's boast (see note on 1 Kings 16:28), not that he was instituting a new religion, or setting up a rival Deity, but that he was worshipping the one true God in a more rational and primitive way. See Jos; Ant. 8. 8.4. And that the calf. worship was not idolatry, properly so called, is clear from this consideration, that "the sin of Jeroboam" is confined to the kingdom of Israel. Not one of the kings of Judah is ever taxed with it. And yet it was in Judah, and not in Israel, that idolatry prevailed. Of the kings of Israel, only Ahab and his two sons were guilty of idolatry; whereas of the kings of Judah only five set their faces against it. Yet the non-idolatrous kings of Israel are constantly charged with Jeroboam's sin, and the idolatrous kings of Judah never. Polytheism, therefore, it cannot have been.

III. IT WAS NOT THE SIN OF IMAGE WORSHIP. The calves were not made to be worshipped, any more than the cherubim of Solomon's temple. Nor do we read that they received Divine worship. "The people went to worship before the one," etc. The Scripture, it is true, calls them "molten images," but Jeroboam doubtless said they were symbols of the heavenly powers, designed (like the images of the Roman Communion) to be helps to devotion, and they are nowhere called "idols," or "horrors," or "statues." We entirely misconceive Jeroboam's purpose, and discredit his sagacity, if we think that he had the worship of Apis or Mnevis or any similar idol in his mind. The last thing that would occur to him would be to set up a purely pagan system amongst such a people as the Jews. His was not the sin of idol worship. What, then, was it?

I. IT WAS THE SIN OF HERESY. For "heresy" in the original meaning of the word simply implied an arbitrary selection of doctrines or practices— αἵρεσις = a choosing—instead of dutifully accepting those which God has enjoined. This is precisely what Jeroboam did. Instead of taking and handing down to his successors, whole and undefiled, the "faith once delivered," he presumed to modify it; to adapt it, as he thought, to the new order of things, etc. His heresy was threefold.

1. He chose his own places of worship. God had ordained that there should be one sanctuary for the whole nation. Both the law of Moses and the history of Israel alike taught that the religious centre of the nation should be one. From an early age it was predicted that God would choose Himself a place to put His name there (Deuteronomy 12:13, Deuteronomy 12:14; Deuteronomy 14:23). And this Divine choice had been recently and unmistakably made. He "chose not the tribe of Ephraim, but chose the tribe of Judah, the Mount Zion which He loved." And He built His "sanctuary," etc. (Psalms 78:67-69; cf. Psalms 132:18, Psalms 132:14). At the dedication of this sanctuary this choice had been publicly proclaimed (1 Kings 8:10, 1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 7:2, 2 Chronicles 7:12, 2 Chronicles 7:16). The whole nation then understood that God had "chosen Jerusalem to put His name there." And Jeroboam was aware of this, and was also aware that the division of the kingdom was to make no difference as to the oneness or the position of the sanctuary. To prevent misconception he was twice reminded in the message of Ahijah, his charter to the crown, that Jerusalem was "the city which God had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel" (1 Kings 11:32, 1 Kings 11:33). It was to be in the future, as it had been in the past, the one place of incense and sacrifice. And that Jeroboam knew it, his own thoughts (1 Kings 12:26, 1 Kings 12:27) reveal to us. "If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem." He is quite clear, then—indeed, he could not be otherwise—as to the place of God's choice. But that place, he argues, will not do for him. Political considerations demand that he shall find a religious centre elsewhere. So he "takes counsel," and decrees ex mero arbitrio that Israel shall have three holy places instead of one, and that Bethel and Dan shall henceforward divide the honours hitherto enjoyed by Jerusalem.

2. He chose his own modes of worship. Though the way in which God should be approached had been prescribed, though every detail of the Divine service had been ordered beforehand, and though he had been warned against adding aught to it or diminishing aught from it (Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:1-32 :382), yet he decided otherwise. Perhaps he persuaded himself that he had good reasons for it; but all the same he chose otherwise than God had chosen. Though Exodus 20:4, etc; forbade the making of graven images, yet he "made molten images" (1 Kings 14:9). Though the law decreed that the sons of Aaron alone should offer sacrifice and burn incense, yet he determined to play the priest himself, and also "made him priests of the lowest of the people." Sic volo, sic jubeo, etc.

3. He chose his own times of worship. Nothing could have been more positively fixed than the date of the Feast of the Tabernacles. It was to be "the fifteenth day of the seventh month" (Le 23:34, 39). But this was not the day of Jeroboam's "choice." He "devised" a month "of his own heart;" he consulted, perhaps he thought, his people's convenience; but was there ever heretic yet that was not full of arguments, when all God asks is obedience?

"In religion

What dangerous error, but some sober brow

Will bless it and approve it with a text,

Hiding the grossness with fair ornament."

II. IT WAS THE SIN OF SCHISM. It is not without reason that in the Litany heresy and schism are coupled together, for the latter springs out of the former. Jeroboam's arbitrary choice led to a division in the Jewish Church. Let us briefly consider in what way the breach in the national unity, hitherto so close and conspicuous, was effected.

1. The one centre of unity gave place to three centres of division. Hitherto, three times a year (cf. 1 Kings 9:25) all the males of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, had gathered round one altar. Thither, "the tribes went up, the tribes of the Lord." Now, instead of going, even from Dan, the people went to worship before the calves "even unto Daniel" The ten tribes turned their backs on Jerusalem, and sought, some of them, a sanctuary at the opposite point of the compass. Nor did those who worshipped at Bethel afford a less striking proof of disintegration, for that sanctuary was within sight of the temple mount. The two pillars of smoke ascending day by day from rival altars, but twelve miles apart, proclaimed to all that there was a "schism in the body."

2. The one priesthood of Aaron shared its ministry with the priests of Jeroboam. No longer were offerings brought exclusively to the sons of Levi, but "whosoever would" might burn the incense and sprinkle the blood. The schism was accentuated by the appointment of a new order of men, with vested interests in the perpetuation of division.

3. The one ritual of Divine obligation was travestied by rites and ceremonies of human appointment. If the breach was widened by the intrusive priesthood, it was deepened by the unauthorized and forbidden cultus of the calves. The stranger, who came out of a far country for God's name's sake (1 Kings 8:41, 1 Kings 8:42), to pray toward the house, found himself in the presence of rival systems, each claiming to be primitive and true, but differing so widely that he would go home to his own land, doubting whether both were not false. He would say, as others have said since, that before men compassed sea and land to make proselytes, they had better agree among themselves.

4. The one Feast of Tabernacles appointed of God was parodied by a Feast devised of man. That feast, the most joyous of the year, had once been the greatest manifestation of religious unity which Israel afforded. It was the very "dissidence of dissent" when the feast of the seventh month was straightway and ostentatiously followed by a feast of the eighth month, celebrated but a few miles distant. It was the culminating proof of διχοστασία.

III. THE SIN OF KORAH (Numbers 16:1-50.) This has been already twice referred to, as a part of the heresy and as a factor in the schism. But it may well stand by itself as a substantive part of the sin. It was just as great a violation of the Divine law to use the ministry of unauthorized persons as to worship at shrines of man's choosing or with ordinances of man's devising.

This, then, was "the sin of Jeroboam." It was not rebellion, not idolatry, but the worship of the true God in unauthorized places, with unauthorized rites, and by unauthorized ministers. Nor did it make it less a sin that it seemed to prosper. The church of Jeroboam straightway became the church of the majority. At the time of the captivity it could boast of some antiquity ( 18:30; 2 Kings 17:16). But all the same God put His brand upon it. Three miracles (1 Kings 13:1-34.) were wrought as a testimony against it. The voices of the prophets were raised to condemn it (Hosea, passim; Micah 6:16, etc.) But from year to year and reign to reign it flourished, and bore its baleful fruit, and then, after the schism had lasted two hundred and fifty years, while the kingdom of Judah, despite its idolatries, still retained for 185 years longer its place in the covenant land, the ten tribes were carried away to the cities of the Medes, were "scattered beyond the river" and disappeared from the page of history.

And has this sin no lessons? has its punishment no warnings for ourselves? If, as some seem to think, we may pick and choose our doctrines at pleasure; if the Scripture is of private interpretation; if we are at liberty each one to set up his own dogmas against the quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus of the Catholic Church; or if there is no such thing as schism: if it is never mentioned or never reprobated in the New Testament; if the Babel of sects—there are over one hundred of them in this England of ours—is according to the plan and purpose of our Lord; or if, again, the "form of sound words," the depositum fidei, the creeds of the undivided Church, have no authority: if they can be added to by the autocrat of Rome, or diminished from by any state, or sect, or teacher; or, finally, if there is no such thing as a "mission" of Christ's ministers; if any man may take this honour to himself; if those who have never been sent themselves may nevertheless send others—then this history is void of all meaning. But if, on the other hand, Christianity is the child of Judaism, and the Christian Church the inheritor of the principles of the Jewish; if that church is One and Catholic and Apostolic; if the faith was once for all ( ἅπαξ) delivered to the saints; if our Lord Christ sent His apostles even as the Father had seat Him (John 20:21), if they in turn "ordained elders in every city" (Titus 1:5; cf. 2 Timothy 2:2), and by laying on of hands (Acts 13:8); if the tactual succession is not a mere piece of priestly assumption—then assuredly the history of Jeroboam's sin is full of meaning, and "very necessary for these times." And the prominence accorded to it in Scripture, the twenty references to its working—we can understand it all when we remember that "whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning," and that the Spirit that moved the prophets foresaw the manifold heresies and schisms of Christendom.


1 Kings 12:25-27

Jeroboam's Despondency.

"Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown." Jeroboam's ambition was to be a king, and God gave him his desire. This was to punish Solomon and his house for their apostasy, and the men of Israel who had been led away in it. The sequel proved that the ambition of Jeroboam also brought its punishment, for he soon found his throne the reverse of a comfortable seat.


1. They seem to have become resistive under his rule.

2. He therefore became gloomily apprehensive.


1. Had he no assurance in the words of Ahijah?

2. But he was moved by ambition feather than piety.

1 Kings 12:28

Jeroboam's Calves.

Unbelief is the root of all mischief. Had the king of Israel believed God, he would have obeyed Him; then he would have been under no temptation to set up a spurious religion to the confusion of his family and people. But what did he mean by these calves?


1. So he describes them in the text.

2. His error was a reproduction of Aaron's.

3. Yet this was idolatry.


1. He had the cherubim in his mind.

2. But the cherubim were emblems of the Holy Trinity.

3. Micah's teraphim were like Jeroboam's calves.

1 Kings 12:28-33

Jeroboam's Sin.

The king of Israel, moved by personal ambition instead of zeal for God, fearing lest his people, in going to Jerusalem to worship, should see reason to regret having rent the kingdom, took counsel to prevent this. The result was the development of the policy described in the text. It was cunning—


1. As to its objects.

2. As to its modes.

3. As to its ministers.


1. Dan was chosen with sagacity.

2. Bethel also was chosen with sagacity.

Thus practically did Jeroboam say, with another purpose in his heart, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem." Beware of religion made easy; it may laud you in perdition. Beware of imitations of Divine things. Keep rigidly to the Word of God.—M.


1 Kings 12:26-28

The Sin of Jeroboam.

This passage describes the act which is so often referred to with horror, in the books of Kings and Chronicles, as "the sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat." To an irreligious man like himself, nothing would appear more natural or politic than this conduct. He had been driven into Egypt by Solomon, had there married Pharaoh's daughter, and become familiar with the worship of Apis and Mnevis. Now he had returned, and found himself the ruler of the ten tribes, the first king of the separate "kingdom of Israel." Recognizing as he did the religious tendencies and memories of his people, he saw that the national assemblies for worship in the temple at Jerusalem would, sooner or later, unite the tribes again under one king. Hence his action. Looking at his conduct


3. It was an appeal to former memories. He made Shechem his capital, a place associated with Abraham and Jacob, and afterwards assigned to the Levites, and made a free city. He erected one of the calves at Bethel, a holy place on the borders of Benjamin and Ephraim (see Genesis 32:1-32.). No doubt his design was to conciliate those who were proud of past history.

4. It was a bold attempt to deceive the devout. He pretended that it was the old worship reestablished; that Jehovah was really represented by the calves: "These be thy gods (the old gods) that brought thee out of the land of Egypt." Not the first or last time in which the prince of darkness has appeared as an angel of light Shrewd as was the policy, it was not perfectly successful even during his reign. The best people emigrated to Judah (like the Huguenots to England), to enrich another kingdom by work and wealth; and the prophets and many of the priests were roused to hostility. Even had it succeeded, however, such policy deserved to be branded with infamy. Principle must never be sacrificed to expediency. Success never condones wrong doing with God.


1. It revealed his utter distrust of God. See the promise that had been given him (1 Kings 11:38): "I will build thee a sure house." He could not believe it. He would trust his own skill rather than God's favour. So had it been with Saul and Solomon. The path of simple obedience is strait and narrow, and few there be that find it." "Do My will and trust Me," is the lesson of life, but we are slow to learn it. Many professing Christians consider religion inappropriate to business competition and to political movements. In this they resemble the son of Nebat.

2. It violated the fundamental law of the Decalogue. If the first command was not actually broken, the second was, necessarily. Had these calves merely been the outward symbols of Jehovah, they were amongst the forbidden "images." Jeroboam knew this. He remembered the calf Aaron made, for his words were an echo of those of the first high priest. He knew that only the intercession of Moses then saved the people from destruction, yet again he defiantly disobeyed. Show the peril of allowing images, crucifixes, banners, the elements in the sacrament, etc; to take a false position in Christian worship. Even if the initiated worship God through these, they break (in spirit) the second command; while the more ignorant are with equal certainty led to the violation of the first.

3. It involved and necessitated other sins.


1 Kings 12:26-30

The Golden Calves.

Jeroboam here earns for himself that name of evil repute—"the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." As the leader in the revolt of the ten tribes he was simply fulfilling a Divine purpose. "The thing was from the Lord,"—the ordained penalty of Solomon's transgression (1 Kings 11:31, 1 Kings 11:38). But this setting up of the golden calves, this only too successful attempt to sever the sacred bond that bound the people of the whole land in one common allegiance to the temple and the great invisible King who sat enthroned there, bore a widely different character. This was not "from the Lord." It was wholly evil. "The thing became a sin," and the sin of Jeroboam Became the prolific source of sin in Israel through all succeeding generations (see 1 Kings 14:7-16). This transaction illustrates—

I. THE FATAL PERVERSITY OF A LAWLESS AMBITION. This was Jeroboam's ruin. God, by the prophet Ahijah, had promised to establish him in the kingdom on certain conditions (1 Kings 11:38). There was no wrong in the mere fact of his seeking to verify this prediction. His sin lay in the nature of the means he adopted. He thought it needful in order to his having a "sure house" that the people should be kept from going up to sacrifice at Jerusalem. In other words, he would strengthen his house at the expense of doing deep dishonour to the "House of the Lord." His own petty kingship was more to him than the infinite Majesty of Jehovah. Thus we see how a carnal ambition

History is full of examples of the way in which men have sought power for themselves, either by the abuse or the degradation of things sacred, or have thought to serve ends right in themselves by unrighteous means. This was one form of Satanic temptation to which our blessed Lord was subject. "All these things will I give thee," etc. (Matthew 4:8, Matthew 4:9), and his professed followers have too often fallen before it,

II. THE ARTIFICE OF A WICKED PURPOSE. This is seen in the way in which Jeroboam practised craftily, upon the religious sentiment of the people in the service of his own ambitious designs.

III. THE DISASTROUS EFFECTS OF WICKEDNESS IN HIGH PLACES. Jeroboam's wicked policy perpetuated and multiplied in Israel the evils of which the rending of the kingdom at first had been the penalty. With few exceptions all the kings that followed him "did evil in the sight of the Lord," and the record of their reigns is little else than a story of crime and bloodshed and misery. Moreover the leprosy of idolatry spread from the throne down through all classes of the people until the kingdom of Israel was completely overthrown and the ten tribes were carried captive into Assyria. Such are the woes that fall on a land when its princes are corrupt and reprobate. So true is it that "they that sow to the wind shall reap the whirlwind."—W.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.