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This chapter finishes for us the history of Rehoboam, his "acts" and his character; and, with the preceding two chapters, it may be counted among the masterpieces of Scripture biography. In so short a compass, how well marked, how distinctly limned, are the features of the man! The name of Rehoboam is, undoubtedly, one of the more important, if not taking rank among the most important, of Scripture, and no one can rise from the study of the fifty-eight verses of these three chapters without a very satisfactory conception of the man Rehoboam and what he was. It will be seen from the language of the second verse, compared with 2 Chronicles 11:17, that, roughly speaking, this chapter stretches over the last sad and evil twelve of the whole seventeen years of Rehoboam's reign. This, however, does not negative the possibility of the anticipation in 2 Chronicles 11:1-23. of what, in point of chronology, belongs to this 2 Chronicles 12:1-16. The parallel of this chapter is 1 Kings 14:21-31, which gives us more than our 1Ki 14:1, 1 Kings 14:6, 1 Kings 14:12, 1 Kings 14:14, of what is personal to the evil-doing of Rehoboam, but much less than our text respecting Shishak and his army, and Shemalah and his messages.
2 Chronicles 12:1
When Rehoboam had established the kingdom … strengthened himself; i.e. while insecure and full of apprehensions, Rehoboam walked humbly and surely, but when he thought his object, simply safety, was gained, his true and worse self appeared or reappeared, and, clothed with self-confidence, he forsakes the "Law," to bring sure retribution on himself. All Israel with him. When we turn to the fuller statements of the parallel (1 Kings 14:22-24), we see that the sins that were at work were not those of king merely, but of people, especially in abominations such as those of sodomy and the immoral practices of the "groves," as well as the ecclesiastical and irreligious iniquities of "high places" and "image" worship!
2 Chronicles 12:2
Shishak; Hebrew, שִׁישַׁק; Septuagint, Σουσάκιμ; Shishak, Sheshonk, Sesonchis, the Sheshenk I. or Shashank I. of the monuments, son of an Assyrian king called Nimrod or Nemaruth, became King of Egypt as first of six kings who lasted in all a hundred and seventy years, of the twenty-second dynasty of Manetho, reigning in Bubastis. To him Jeroboam had fled for refuge from Solomon (1 Kings 11:40). He reigned An. Sac. 3830 to 3851 or 3863. This makes Solomon's reign A.S. 3799 to 3839. Shishak's invasion, therefore, in aid of Jeroboam, was A.S. 3844. A representation of it exists in relief sculptured on the south external wall of the temple of Amen, at Karnak, Thebes; and, together with this, an elaborate list of countries, cities, tribes, conquered by Sheshenk or tributary to him, a hundred and thirty-three in number. Among these are some of the very fifteen fenced cities (see our 2 Chronicles 12:4) which Rehoboam built or fortified, viz. the three, Shoco, Adoraim, and Aijalon, while the erasure of fourteen names just where these are found accounts, no doubt, for the non-appearance of others of them. There are also the names of Levitical and Canaanite cities, situated in the kingdoms of the ten tribes, but belonging to the Levites who had been compelled to migrate into Judah. The dates given above are those accepted by Conder, in his 'Handbook to the Bible', and do not quite agree with those adopted in Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 3.1287-1294. Both of these most interesting articles will well repay perusal, as well as the article "Thebes" in the latter work, 3.1471-1475.
2 Chronicles 12:3
Twelve hundred chariots. The parallel does not give the numbers. These are large, but not inconsistent with those mentioned in other connections, whether those of Solomon, or, going further back, of Pharaoh. Lubims. The letter s is orthographically redundant in this, as also in the following names, the forms being already plural. The Lubim mean the Libyans, west of Egypt. They are probably the people represented on the Egyptian monuments as Lebu, of Semitic type, subjugated by Egypt's kings in the thirteenth century B.C. They were among the oldest of colonists, that drifted along the coast of Africa, north of the Great Desert, from the East, and are perhaps the same as the Lehabim (Genesis 10:13; 2 Chronicles 16:8; Nahum 3:9; Daniel 11:43; Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 38:5). Sukkiims. Probably an Arab tribe, though the Septuagint Version gives Τρωγοδύται, as though taking them for Troglodytes in the hills west of the Red Sea; so, too, the Vulgate. Gesenius at once renders the סֻכִּיִּים tent-dwellers, and sets the people in question down for some African tribe. They are not mentioned elsewhere so as to be recognized. Ethiopians. These were ethnically Cushites, but the territorial application of the term was confined to the African Cushite settlers. It is remarkable that, in 2 Chronicles 21:16, Ethiopians are classed with Arabians, but otherwise with African peoples, and in particular Egypt (Psalms 68:31; Isaiah 20:3, Isaiah 20:4; Isaiah 43:3; Isaiah 45:14; Jeremiah 46:9; Ezekiel 30:5; Ezekiel 38:5). They were many-tribed, and the Sabaeans were a leading tribe of them. It is evident that Shishak could draw from a large and varied dominion subject to his dynasty at this time.
2 Chronicles 12:5
Shemaiah (see Exposition, 2 Chronicles 11:2). The princes. These seem to have been a fruit of some original organization with Solomon, as they are not found with David (1 Kings 4:2-6). Ye have forsaken me … therefore have I also left you. The same Hebrew verb is employed in both members of this sentence, and the rendering should follow in like manner (see 2 Chronicles 7:19-22).
2 Chronicles 12:6
Note, as very apt parallel passages, Jeremiah 13:15, Jeremiah 13:18; Exodus 9:27.
2 Chronicles 12:7
Some deliverance. The Hebrew for "some" here is כִּמְעַט. There is plain authority (Ruth 2:7; Psalms 38:10) for translating this word as of time, and the rendering "a little while" of the margin, will, therefore, seem preferable. But see next note, and the" altogether" of 2 Chronicles 12:12. It has often been most justly remarked what grateful note should be taken of the fact that God always is recorded as turning such a wistful, loving eye to any symptom of repentance (1 Kings 21:27-29; Jonah 2:5-9). Who can estimate the loss of men, that the symptoms have been so frequent, so comparatively easily found as compared with the reality of lastingness?
2 Chronicles 12:8
The genius of this verse, nevertheless, will quite admit of the Authorized Version rendering, proposed to be superseded in the last verse. This says life shall be spared, but still severe moral reckoning (that of servitude in a sense and tributariness) shall be taken with the transgressors and forsakers of the Lord! The contrast of God's service and that of men and the world again touchingly recalls the words of Christ (Matthew 11:28-30).
2 Chronicles 12:9
Words do not tell in this verse the "humbled service" of Rehoboam and the princes; but the position speaks, speaks volumes of itself. Where did Rehoboam hide himself, where would he not have been glad to hide himself, while the treasures of the house of the Lord, and those of his own house, were coolly taken by the foreign soldiery, none forbidding them, nor resisting, nor even making afraid?
2 Chronicles 12:10
Instead of which King Rehoboam made shields of brass. A most humbling reversal of the glowing promise afterwards given, "For brass I will bring gold" (Isaiah 9:17).
2 Chronicles 12:12
This verse is not in the parallel, but is particularly proper to Chronicles and its uniform tenor. And also in Judah things went well. The obvious meaning, "and still some good was left in Judah." There was some hopefulness in the situation, and reason for striving mightily "to be watchful, and strengthen the things that remain, that are ready to die" (Revelation 3:2). The occurrence of לְכָלָה is somewhat against the rendering of "some" in 2 Chronicles 12:7 as an adverb of time.
2 Chronicles 12:13
The parallel to the remaining verses of this chapter is found in 1 Kings 14:21, 1 Kings 14:22, 1 Kings 14:29-31. In Jerusalem. Possibly, considering the words of 2 Chronicles 11:5-12, 2 Chronicles 11:17, this may indicate that Rehoboam was brought down to thinking almost more of the safety of Jerusalem and himself than of the kingdom in its length and breadth. One and forty years old (see our note, 2 Chronicles 10:8, towards the end, and compare our 2 Chronicles 13:7, as well as the parallel places, 1 Kings 12:8 and 1 Kings 14:21). It cannot be held as conclusively shown that the age of forty-one is incorrect. An Ammonitess (see 1 Kings 11:1-9). Rehoboam's mother's name and nationality are noted also, and twice in the parallel (1 Kings 14:21, 1 Kings 14:31). Naamah was possibly the daughter of Nahash (1 Chronicles 19:1-20:3). The briefness but decidedness of the notifications made as to this mother of Rehoboam leaves us without doubt that there is not lacking significance in them. Schulz (in his ' Scholia in Ver. Test.,' vol. 3.) says the reason is "quia ca filio idololatriae ansam dedisse videtur;" Keil and Bertheau think that, though there was evidence of this in the case of the mention of Asa's mother (1 Kings 15:13), the explanation here is that Naamah "appears" to have had, as queen-mother, considerable influence in the government. They do not specify where they find this to "appear" with any marked plainness. It is quite true that, in the successive accounts of the Jewish kings, the name of each mother is mentioned (1 Kings 15:2; 2Ch 13:2; 1 Kings 22:42; 2 Chronicles 20:32, etc.). We should say it is like the book, so Divine and human, called the Bible, to do so far-seeing and far-reaching a thing as to give the mother's name; and practically to say that Solomon and Naamah were (in special sense for Judah) a repetition of Adam and Eve. How far Judah and her line of kings may have correctly said, they were answerable for "death and all our woe," the sacred historians say (1 Kings 11:4, 1 Kings 11:9-11, 1 Kings 11:14, 1 Kings 11:23, 1Ki 11:26, 1 Kings 11:31, 1 Kings 11:33, 1Ki 11:36; 1 Kings 12:24; 2 Chronicles 11:4).
2 Chronicles 12:14
These summarizing moral estimates of the character of the succeeding kings are, indeed, common to the compilers of both Chronicles and Kings, though absent, in the case of Rehoboam, from the parallel.
2 Chronicles 12:15
The authority quoted by the writer of Kings (14:29, 30) is "the book of the Chronicles [literally, the book of the acts of the days, i.q. the title of our 'Chronicles'] of the kings of Judah," on which follows in the next verse the substantive statement, "And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days." The authorities quoted here are the works of Shemaiah and of Iddo, and it is possible that the following words touching the continual wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam, which have not the substantive verb among them, may have been part of the title of Iddo's work, although it is more probable that his work on 'Genealogies' would retain the character of a specialty. We subjoin for English readers a literal translation of this verse: "And the words (acts) of Jeroboam first and last, are they not written in the words (acts) of Shemaiah the prophet, and of Iddo the seer touching genealogies" [but Gesenius, sub voce," in the manner of a genealogical table"] "and wars of Rehoboam and Jeroboam perpetual." We think that neither our Authorized Version nor Gesenius's rendering probably convey the correct meaning. The hithp, of יַחַשׁ would be better satisfied by the rendering, "to make a register," i.e. "to preserve a continued register of David's genealogy."
2 Chronicles 12:16
In the city of David; i.e on Mount Zion, an eminence on the northern part of Mount Moriah. Here was the bury-lug-place of the kings, chambers with recesses for the successive kings. To this place of royal sepulture some of the kings were not permitted to be brought (2 Chronicles 21:20; 2 Chronicles 24:25; 2 Chronicles 28:27; 2 Kings 15:7). The chief cemetery of the city was on the slopes of the valley of the Kidron (1 Kings 15:13; 2Ki 23:6; 2 Chronicles 29:5, 2 Chronicles 29:16); another, probably, was south of the city on the sides of the ravine of Hinnom (Jeremiah 7:32). In the king's sepulchres eleven out of Judah's twenty-two kings were laid—David, Solomon, Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Ahaziah, Amaziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, Josiah. For Asa (2 Chronicles 16:14) and Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:33) places of special honour were found. The good priest Jehoiada also had burial in the king's burial-place (2 Chronicles 24:16). Kings Jehoram (2 Chronicles 21:20) and Joash (2 Chronicles 24:25) were buried in the "city of David," but not in the above sepulchres Uzziah, because a leper, was buried in the "field of the burial of the kings" (2 Chronicles 26:23). It is all but certain that these royal sepulchres were in the enclosure now called the "Haram area." (For other interesting and important references, see Nehemiah 3:16; Ezekiel 43:7, Eze 43:9; 2 Kings 21:18, 2 Kings 21:26; 2 Chronicles 33:20; 2 Chronicles 28:27.) While Rehoboam was laid thus to sleep with his fathers, Jeroboam's reign had yet four years to run.
2 Chronicles 12:1-16
A model instance of Divine goodness and opportunity prolonged to one who annulled all, and vitiated every highest privilege vouchsafed to him, by the one fact of his own infidelity of heart.
We are strikingly taught, and we vividly recall from the contents of this chapter, the following lessons and facts.
I. HOW VERY PRONE FORGETFULNESS OF OUR PAST SINS IS TO FOLLOW WITH SWIFT RAPIDITY ON PRESENT RESPITE FROM FEAR, RELIEF FROM SUFFERING, REMISSION OF PUNISHMENT, RESTORATION OF OUR FORMER STATUS, IN WHATSOEVER KIND! Yet retentive memory of that sin would constitute our duty, our best wisdom, one of our surest cautions for the future, one of the likeliest fertilizings of penitence, and springs of humble gratitude.
II. HOW VERY PRONE SECURITY, ABSOLUTE CONFIDENCE IN SELF, AND THE SPIRIT OF EITHER DEFIANCE OR RECKLESS DISREGARD TOWARDS WHAT MAY AGAIN INVADE, IN FEAR, IN PAIN, IN PUNISHMENT, IN LOSS OF EVEN THE EARTHLY POSITION WE LOVE SO WELL, ARE TO FOLLOW QUICKLY ON PRESENT RELIEF! Too often, when the deeply useful memory of the sin is put far away out of sight and out of memory, it is but the precursor of the springing up of a very crop of positively harmful growth. The ground that is unoccupied by sweet pasture will be sure to seed itself, of all floating ill weeds; and to bring forth even of its own self, and own emptiness, or own pravity, the baneful, the noxious, the poisonous herb!
III. HOW KIND THE PUNISHMENTS OF GOD ARE! They are essentially so. Their intent is to recover, to reform, to improve. With lesson in them, with suggestion in them, with caution and warning in them, with course and system of discipline, they offer exactly what it were impossible to get of self, or to get of others, or to get from anywhere except from the touch of the hand or the finger, or the rod of that tenderest to smite, the all-knowing Father of us all! So 2 Chronicles 12:8 says deliberately, distinctly, that God would teach Rehoboam and condescendingly wait near him some while, to teach him, the comparison of services, the difference by experience of his yoke, burden, and service most ennobling, and those of such a one as Shishak King of Egypt. Rehoboam would find a greater difference between the two than that of his own well-known figurative language, the "whip" and the "scorpion." In tenderer connection, equally truly and sweet, did Caroline Fry, once on a time, teach every chastened child of God, and of sorrow, and of smart, and of even woe, to sing—
"Often the clouds of deepest woe
So sweet a message bear,
Dark though they seem, 'twere hard to find
One frown of anger there!
"It needs our hearts be weaned from earth,
It needs that we be driven,
By loss of every earthly stay,
To find our hope in heaven!"
IV. How READY TO FORGIVE, TO GRANT RESPITE AND FURLOUGH, TO GIVE "ROOM AND SPACE FOR REPENTANCE," THE LORD GOD OF US ALL IS! Fully thirteen years, as it appears, did such manner of long-suffering, of forgivingness, even when it could not be precipitated into objective forgiveness, hold out—sparing, pitying, prolonging probation, repeating trial, accepting the words, the posture, the fastings, the tears, the petitions of humiliation, the partial and transient amendments of life and conduct, in case anything real, deep, lasting, might haply come of them. Fully thirteen years (see 2 Chronicles 12:2, 2 Chronicles 12:13) was Rehoboam kept on the throne, and all this long-suffering, considerate mercy shown to him, as though for him alone, or for him first, or for him chiefly, it bad been written, "For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust"—who all the while was neutralizing and cancelling Divine goodness, gift, opportunity, by the one damning vice that wrote itself as his epitaph, itself history's last memorandum of him, the lamentable summary in a sentence, "Because he fixed not his heart to seek the Lord!"
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
2 Chronicles 12:1
The peril of security.
The King of Judah, whose career had been marked By such a strange admixture of good and evil, of wisdom and folly (see homily on 2 Chronicles 11:18-23), here takes another turn in his varied course, and this time a decisive one; but we mark first—
I. THE GOOD WORK OF CONSOLIDATION. He "had established the kingdom, and had strengthened himself." The reference is, principally though not perhaps exclusively, to the action chronicled in the previous chapter (2 Chronicles 12:5-12, 22, 23). When he found that it was not open to him to regain the seceded tribes by force of arms, he set himself, like a wise man, to secure the fraction that was left him. He may have consoled himself with the thought—which is not only a thought but a truth—that a small estate that is well governed and well kept is far better than a large one that is ill managed, and that, consequently, soon shows signs of feebleness and decline. Those three years of consolidation, spent in the service of Jehovah, and under the sanction of his priests and prophets, were years of real worth to the country, and probably of happiness to Rehoboam. In the conduct of our estate, whether that be some business in which we are engaged, or some institution or Church we are serving, or some character (another's or our own) that we are building up, we spend our time and our strength well in the work of "establishing and strengthening." In the supreme matter of human character we can hardly lay too much emphasis on this matter of consolidation. Character must be fortified by knowledge, by the understanding and the cordial acceptance of Christian principles, by exercise, by the nourishment and growth of a strong love for what is pure and true and generous, and by a hearty hatred of all that is corrupt and mean and false.
II. THE TEMPTATION OF SUPPOSED SECURITY. When Rehoboam had attained to a position in which he felt himself secure, then he relaxed his hold on his early convictions, he surrendered his trust in God, he abandoned the faith and practice of his fathers. While conscious of danger from without, be was glad to be able to look for help to the lower that was above, and he remained loyal to Jehovah; as soon as he felt or fancied himself secure within his ramparts, he flung away his spiritual support. Here we have guilt and folly in equal measure—guilt, for it was singularly ungrateful of him to forsake the God who had so clearly placed his dynasty on the throne, and impious of him to turn from the worship of him whom he believed to be the one true and living God; folly, for he might have known that his material defences would avail him nothing if the anger of the Lord was enkindled and the hand of the Lord directed against him. Supposed security is a strong temptation.
1. When we believe ourselves to be possessed of a sufficiency of material treasure, we think we can afford to be independent of the aid of the Divine provision.
2. When we think we have surrounded ourselves with all needful sources of earthly and human joy, we are apt to think we can dispense with the consolations and the satisfactions which are in Jesus Christ; when we have attained to some strength of mind and of will, to some measure of maturity, we are tempted to suppose that there is less necessity, if any at all, to look upward for Divine support, to lean on the Divine arm. To yield to this temptation is to err sadly, to sin grievously.
(1) To err sadly; for we shall find that no defences or securities that are of earth or that are of man will avail us against all the difficulties and hazards that are around and against us, without the aid of an almighty arm; and the end will be failure and dishonour.
(2) To sin grievously; for God is demanding of us, in terms we cannot fail to understand and with a frequency we cannot fail to mark, that we should put our trust in him, and not in man; in him, and not in ourselves; in him, and not in "the chariots and horses" of this world.
III. THE RESPONSIBILITY OF HIGH POSITION. Rehoboam "forsook the Law of the Lord, and all Israel with him." His people were not unaccountable for following him, but how weighty was his responsibility for leading them astray!—C.
2 Chronicles 12:2-12
Penalty, penitence, and forgiveness.
It was not many months before Rehoboam found out the heinousness of his offence, the magnitude of his mistake; for in the path of sin comes penalty, and behind penalty steals shame. Happily for him there was mercy behind that. We look at this succession—
I. AS EXPERIENCED BY THE KING OF JUDAH. First of all, following fast on his transgression, came:
1. Divine displeasure and humiliating defeat. There came in to his palace-gates the stern spokesman for God, the prophet of Jehovah, with the language of cutting censure on his lips, "Thus saith the Lord, Ye have forsaken me, therefore have I also left you," etc. (2 Chronicles 12:5); and with this anger of the Lord came disgraceful defeat on the field of battle. Those strong places he had so carefully fortified, of which he was so proud, and on which he so much relied, went down one after the other at the approach of the enemy, and left the capital at his mercy (2 Chronicles 12:3, 2 Chronicles 12:4). Then came:
2. Spiritual agitation. Shame, fear, confession. Rehoboam was ashamed of his great folly; he was afraid for the safety of Jerusalem, and even for his own liberty or life; he made a humble confession of his sin. He and his princes "humbled themselves" before God (2 Chronicles 12:6). And then came:
3. The Divine clemency.
(1) God took him back into his forgiving favour (2 Chronicles 12:7). "The wrath of the Lord turned from him" (2 Chronicles 12:12).
(2) He promised him deliverance in a short time, and he graciously fulfilled his word; for Shishak went back without destroying or sacking the capital, and without taking the life or liberty of the king.
(3) His mercy included discipline. God let Rehoboam be subject to the Egyptian king for a while that he might know the difference between a degrading servitude and an ennobling service (see next homily); and he suffered Jerusalem to be stripped of some of its proud treasures, that the king and his princes might learn that their strength and wealth were as nothing in comparison with the favour of God, and would be forfeited by their disobedience and disloyalty. God's mercy was of such a kind as to justify repentance, but to discourage rebellion and wrong-doing.
II. IN OUR OWN EXPERIENCE. Following our sin against the Lord, whether this be some special act of transgression, or whether it be the condition of estrangement and separation from him, is:
1. The Divine rebuke. This comes to our heart through the written or uttered Word of God, or through the pricking and piercing of our own conscience, or through the coming of God to the individual soul by his Divine providence. In some form or other God says to us, "Thou hast sinned, and done evil m my sight."
2. Spiritual agitation and return. Our heart is humbled; we are conscious that we have violated the Law and grieved the Spirit of God, and our soul is filled with a holy and a manly shame. And then our heart turns toward God; we "set our hearts to seek the Lord God," our Father and our Saviour and our Friend; we earnestly desire to be taken into his service. And then comes:
3. Divine forgiveness. God receives us fully into his favour; he takes us back to his heart and to his home, so that we are no longer aliens or enemies, but children at his hearth and table. Yet he makes us to know that our past sin has left some of its marks behind it. It has robbed us of some treasure; it has injured us, perhaps in our circumstances; certainly in our soul. We cannot break his righteous Law, we cannot oppose his holy and loving will, we cannot violate the laws of our own spiritual nature, without being something the poorer for our folly and our guilt. Nevertheless, the capital is not taken, the enemy withdraws; we have left us our liberty, and our power to serve the righteous and the loving Saviour.—C.
2 Chronicles 12:8
Servitude and service.
"They shall be servants to him [for a short time], that they may discern my service and the service of the kingdoms of the lands; i.e. that they may see that my rule is not so oppressive as that of foreign kings" (Keil). God would let Rehoboam and the princes of Judah be for a time subject to Shishak—be in his power, be at his mercy, be compelled to go through the miserable humiliation of buying him off—that he might be able to contrast the honourable and happy service which he had known for three years (2 Chronicles 11:17) with the unendurable subjection to which he was now reduced. He should feel and know that the way of transgressors is hard; that between the bonds of the Lord and the yoke of the stranger there was all the difference between blessedness and misery, between a holy service and a degrading servitude.
I. THE DEGRADING SERVITUDE. "Know ye not that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants [or, 'slaves'] ye are to whom ye obey?" "Ye were the servants [slaves] of sin; … Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness" (Romans 6:16-18).
1. Sin is a foreign power. It is a stranger; it is an interloper; it has stepped in between ourselves and God; it is like the Egyptian forces that came up against Judah and Jerusalem, and sought to bring the people of God into captivity. Sin is our natural enemy, whom we have greatest reason to dread.
2. Sin proves a hard master, and forces to a cruel bondage. It is the ultimate source of poverty, and that is a hard master; it leads to vice, and that holds its victims in the most degrading thraldom; it throws around its subjects the coils of procrastination, and these hold the spirit in an evil circle from which it tries vainly to escape; it takes men further and further away from God, and leads them down to sources of satisfaction that are sure to fail and to end in disappointment and heart-ache; it is a sorry servitude in which to suffer; it is in very striking contrast to—
II. THE HOLY SERVICE OF THE SAVIOUR. TO recognize the claims of our Divine Father and Redeemer, to yield ourselves in glad self-surrender to him, to spend our days and powers in his service—what is this?
1. It is the one right thing to do. It is to be fulfilling the greatest and strongest of all obligations.
2. It is the path of true liberty. Every servant of a Divine Saviour can say and sing—
"In a service which thy love appoints
There are no bonds for me,
A life of self-renouncing love
Is a life of liberty."
3. It is the secret and the source of lasting peace and of abiding joy.
4. It is the commencement of that life which is "life indeed," which is the beginning and foretaste of "eternal life"—the life which is of God, for God, with God, in God.—C.
HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW
2 Chronicles 12:1, 2 Chronicles 12:2
The apostasy of Rehoboam.
I. EARLY IN ITS COMMENCEMENT. After the three years already mentioned (2 Chronicles 11:17). Rehoboam's piety was short-lived, like the morning cloud and early dew (Hosea 6:4), and like the seed upon stony ground (Matthew 13:5). Want of stability and permanence is a chief defect in man's goodness. Many begin well who neither continue long nor end aright.
II. PRESUMPTUOUS IN ITS SPIRIT. Rehoboam's declension began after he had established the kingdom and strengthened himself. His fit of reforming zeal continued no longer than the fear which caused it. When this expired that vanished. So long as the country was defenceless, Rehoboam deemed it prudent to have Jehovah on his side, and with that end in view he patronized Jehovah's altars. The moment his garrisons were erected, manned, and stored, he began to reckon that Jehovah's aid was not so indispensable, and that his reforming zeal need not be so extremely hot. So men still think of God, and assume a semblance of religion when they feel themselves in peril, but the instant peril passes they doff the cloak of piety they have erstwhile worn—like Pharaoh (Exodus 8:8, Exodus 8:15; Exodus 9:27, Exodus 9:34), like the Israelites (Numbers 21:7; Numbers 25:1; Psalms 78:31; Psalms 106:6), like Ahab (1 Kings 21:29), and others.
III. THOROUGH-GOING IS ITS CHARACTER.
1. Negative. He forsook the Law of the Lord, probably by violating its moral precepts and discontinuing its ceremonial rites, by abandoning the worship and deserting the altars of Jehovah.
2. Positive. He returned to the heathen idolatries which for three years he had neglected (1 Kings 11:7, 1 Kings 11:8), like a dog to his vomit, etc. (2 Peter 2:22). So a merely negative declension in religion is impossible. He who abandons the service of God cannot stop short of serving the devil. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24); but every man must serve one.
IV. CONTAGIOUS IN ITS INFLUENCE. As Achan perished not alone in his iniquity (Joshua 22:20), so Rehoboam sinned not alone in his apostasy, but by means of his royal example or command drew all Israel after him. "One sinner destroyeth much good" (Ecclesiastes 9:18); "A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6). One asks, where were the priests and Levites who had so bravely, resisted the profanations of Jeroboam, and rather sacrificed their suburbs and possessions than defile their consciences (2 Chronicles 11:14)? and where were the pious Israelites who had set their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel (2 Chronicles 11:16)? In one short year their fervour had been quenched, their fidelity shaken, their courage damped.
V. DISASTROUS IN ITS CONSEQUENCE. "Evil pursueth sinners" (Proverbs 13:21), and in two years Nemesis overtook Rehoboam in the shape of an Egyptian invasion. Of all sinners it is true, "their feet shall slide in due time" (Deuteronomy 32:35); of apostates it is written, "I will recompense their way upon their own heads, saith the Lord" (Ezekiel 11:21).
1. The sin of apostasy.
2. The danger of prosperity.
3. The impossibility of neutrality.
4. The fickleness of crowds in religion as in politics.
5. The corrupting influence of evil example.
6. The certainty of retribution.—W.
2 Chronicles 12:2-4
I. THE INVADER. Shishak King of Egypt, the Sesonchis of Manetho, the Shashanq I. of the monuments. Originally the son of an Assyrian king named Nimrod, "who had met his death in Egypt and been buried at Abydos," Shashanq I. of the twenty-second dynasty established his seat of royalty at Bubastis, in Lower Egypt. His mother's name was Tentespeh, his wife's Tahpenes (1 Kings 11:19). One of his wife's sisters married Hadad the Edomite; another became the wife of Jeroboam (Stanley, 'Jewish Church,' 2.275; Ewald, 'History of Israel,' 3.217; 4.32).
II. THE ARMY.
1. Chariots. In ancient times a common instrument of war (Exodus 14:9; 2 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 20:1). Shishak had twelve hundred, or twice the number of Pharaoh's chosen chariots in the time of Moses (Exodus 14:7). The Philistines once collected against Israel thirty thousand (1 Samuel 13:5). Solomon had fourteen hundred (1 Kings 10:26), Rehoboam likely not so many in consequence of the disruption of the kingdom.
2. Horsemen. Sixty thousand; five times as many as had belonged to Solomon (1 Kings 4:26), and twelve times as many as the Philistines had brought against Israel (1 Samuel 13:5). Forty thousand mounted warriors once fell before David's troops (2 Samuel 10:18).
3. Infantry. Without number, composed of native forces and mercenaries or foreign troops—Lubims, Sukkims, and Ethiopians.
(1) The Lubims, or Libyans (2 Chronicles 16:8; Daniel 11:43), the Lehabim of Genesis 10:13, the Temhu, or Tehennu, or more accurately the eastern portion of this people, the Lubu of the monuments, were the inhabitants of the districts of Marcotis and Libya west of the Canopic arm of the Nile (Knobel), or in the larger sense the Liby-AEgyptii of the ancients (Keil), the people dwelling between Lower Egypt and the Roman province of Africa (Kautzsch in Riehm, art. "Libyer").
(2) The Sukkim were aborigines of Africa, "cavemen," troglodytes (LXX; Vulgate), "probably the Ethiopian troglodytes upon the mountains on the west coast of the Arabian Gulf" (Bertheau), whom Strabo and Pliny mention, the latter speaking of a troglodyte city Suche, which has been identified with Suakim (Kautzsch).
(3) The Ethiopians, or Cushites, introduced among the forces of Shishak (cf. Nab. Genesis 3:9) were drawn from the African territory south of Egypt.
III. THE REASON.
1. Shishak's. Perhaps to assist Jeroboam in his measures of hostility against Rehoboam, and eventually to secure the supremacy of Judah, possibly also of Israel as well.
2. Jehovah's. To punish Rehoboam and Judah for their apostasy. Though second causes need not be overlooked, they must not be permitted to obscure, far less to deny, the first. Had Rehoboam remained faithful to Jehovah, all the intrigues of Jeroboam would have failed to start Shishak on the extradition here reported.
IV. THE PROGRESS. Shishak captured all the fenced cities of Judah in which Rehoboam trusted (2 Chronicles 11:5-9), and encamped his army before the walls of Jerusalem. Vain, after all, had been Rehoboam's confidence. His garrisons and soldiers had yielded the first assault, The props on which men lean often prove broken reeds. The shelters to which sinners run in the day of calamity mostly turn out refuges of lies (Isaiah 28:17).
1. The certainty of sin being sooner or later overtaken by retribution (Numbers 32:23).
2. The weakness of all defences, whether for nations or for individuals, when God is not within them (Psalms 127:1).
3. When God has a sinner to chastise he can easily find an instrument wherewith to do it (Isaiah 10:5).—W.
2 Chronicles 12:5-8
Two messages from Jehovah.
I. A MESSAGE OF WARNING. (2 Chronicles 12:5, 2 Chronicles 12:6.)
1. By whom sent. Shemaiah the prophet, or man of God (2 Chronicles 11:2). When Jehovah has a message for any age, people, or individual, he can always find a messenger to bear it—a Moses to go to Pharaoh, a Samuel to speak to Saul, a Nathan to send to David, an Elijah or a Micaiah to warn Ahab, a John the Baptist to preach to Israel and testify against Herod. The hour never comes without the man. When a Paul or a Polycarp, an Athanasius or an Augustine, a Calvin or a Luther, a Knox or a Wesley, is needed in the New Testament Church, he appears at the moment when most required.
2. To whom addressed. To Rehoboam and the princes of Judah whom Shishak's invasion had caused to convene in Jerusalem. They had come together to consult about the safety of the capital; they had not called Jehovah to the council. They had not realized that in such a crisis as had arisen "vain was the help of man," and "through God alone could they do valiantly" (Psalms 60:11, Psalms 60:12); that unless God kept the city, they the watchers would watch in vain (Psalms 127:1). Yet they seem to have discerned that their best efforts would prove ineffectual, and they were filled with fear. Happily Jehovah thought of them, though they forgat him.
3. In what terms it ran.
(1) It intimated a fact: "Ye have forsaken me." This showed that Jehovah had been cognizant of all that had taken place since Rehoboam got his garrisons erected, had witnessed the idolatries and unspeakable abominations of the faithless king and his coward princes, though perhaps they had reasoned that, as God was in the height of heaven, he could not know what transpired upon the earth (Job 22:12-14). But though they had not seen him, he had observed them (Proverbs 15:3; Amos 9:8).
(2) It announced a consequence: "Therefore have I also left you in the hand of Shishak." Thus did Jehovah signify that it was he himself even more than Shishak that had come up against Rehoboam and his princes; Shishak had not appeared before their gates without his permission; and without his assistance nothing they could do would prevent them falling into Shishak's hand. Jehovah, indeed, could avert that calamity. He could put a hook into Shishak's nose and lead him back by the way he came, as he afterwards did to Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:28; Isaiah 37:29); but in the mean time, as they had left him for the calves of Egypt, he had left them to be the prey of Egypt's lord.
4. What effect it produced.
(1) Contrition, or at least seeming contrition: "They humbled themselves." To be sure, their penitence, like their previous reformation, was only skin deep. Nevertheless, it had the semblance of reality, and God accepted it as such.
(2) Confession: "They said, The Lord is righteous," i.e. in punishing them as he had done; in which was implied an acknowledgment that they had sinned. This the design of all God's chastisements, whether national or individual, to excite personal humiliation and hearty recognition of the holiness and justice of God (Deuteronomy 8:5, Deuteronomy 8:16; Ezekiel 20:37, Ezekiel 20:43; Hosea 5:15). Only confession may be on the lip where no real contrition is in the heart.
II. A MESSAGE OF MERCY. (2 Chronicles 12:7, 2 Chronicles 12:8.)
1. Its occasion. The success of the first message in the (at least seeming) penitence of the king and his princes. "God speaketh once, yea twice (Job 33:14), to men, even to his people, who often fail to understand his first voice, or understand but refuse to hear (Isaiah 65:12), though occasionally also they listen and submit (Jonah 3:5). In the first case, his second speaking may be nothing more than a repetition of the first, or an explanation of its contents; in the second, it commonly assumes the form of increased warnings and severer threatenings; in the thirds it is usually a voice of mercy following on a voice of judgment. It was so with Rehoboam and the princes of Judah.
2. Its contents.
(1) Their humiliation had been observed and accepted: "They have humbled themselves." So God still sees and regards with favour all who abase themselves before him (Jeremiah 31:18; Psalms 9:12; Psalms 10:17; 1 Kings 21:29).
(2) A degree, at least, of clemency would be extended towards them: "I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance, and. my wrath shall not be poured out upon Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak." So God delights to meet the first advances of returning penitents with such foretastes of mercy as will lure them on to desire its full fruition.
(3) Nevertheless, a measure of correction would be laid upon them. Though Shishak should not be suffered to work his will either upon them or their city, they would, nevertheless, fall into his hand. They' should be his servants, either as captives or as tributaries; and would learn the difference between Jehovah's rule and the domination of foreign kings. So God still deals with his people—forgives them, but permits them to reap the temporal fruits of their transgression, that they may know what an evil and bitter thing it is to forsake God (Jeremiah 2:19), and how much more easy is Christ's yoke (Matthew 11:29, Matthew 11:30) than that of sin (Lamentations 1:14).
1. The omniscience of God: "All things are naked," etc. (Hebrews 4:13),
2. God's compact with the soul: "The Lord is with us," etc. (2 Chronicles 15:2).
3. The mercifulness of God: he is "long-suffering, and slow to wrath" (Exodus 34:6; Psalms 78:38).
4. The misery of sin: it ever entails sorrow (Psalms 32:10).
5. God's ability to execute his own sentences: "It is a fearful thing," etc. (Hebrews 10:31); "Though hand join in hand," etc. (Proverbs 11:21).—W.
2 Chronicles 12:9
The first sacking of Jerusalem.
I. ITS HISTORIC CERTAINTY. That Shishak gradually drew his lines closer round the capital, and in the end stormed its citadel, has received confirmation from the monuments.
1. In the temple of Karnak, at Thebes, on the walls of which Soti I. and Rameses II. had by means of pictorial representations and hieroglyphic inscriptions preserved a record of their victories, Sheshonq, on returning from Palestine, caused a bas-relief to be executed in commemoration of his expedition.
2. On the south wall, behind the picture of the victories of Rameses II; to the east of the hall of the Bubastids, appears a colossal image of the Egyptian sovereign, arrayed in warlike costume and dealing heavy blows with a club or iron mace upon his captives, who are Jews or, at least, Asiatics, whom he grasps.by the hair of their heads.
3. In another representation he is depicted as leading captive a hundred and thirty-three cities or tribes, each one of which is personated by the figure of a chief whose name is written on an embattled shield, and whose physiognomy has been supposed (Lenormant) to declare them Jews, though this is probably imagination.
4. In the lists of names occur those of
(1) cities of Judah proper, as e.g. Adoraim (Adurma), Aijalon (Ajulon), Shoco (Shauke), Gibeon (Qebeana), etc;
(2) Levitical cities of Israel, as e.g. Taanach (Ta'ankau), Rehob (Rehabau), Mahanaim (Mahanema), etc.; and
(3) Canaanitish cities, as e.g. Bethshan (Beithshanlan), Megiddo (Makethu).
5. Among the names is one styled Judah-Malek; not "the King of Judah" (Stanley), but "the kingly Judah" (Ebers), or "Judah a kingdom' (Rawlinson), which is supposed to point to Jerusalem.
6. The conquered nations are designated as the "'Am of a distant land," and the Fenekh or the Phoenicians. The former expression, "'Am," answers exactly to the Hebrew word for "people," and may have been intended to denote the Jews.
II. ITS ACTUAL EXTENT. Whether Shishak ravaged the city is doubtful. The plundering reported suggests that he did (Bertheau, Keil), but, "like Hezekiah on the occasion of Sennacherib's invasion (2 Kings 18:13-16), Rehoboam may have surrendered his treasures (1 Kings 14:26) "to save his city from the horrors of capture" (Rawlinson). In any case, Shishak carried off valuable spoil.
1. The treasures of the temple, or house of the Lord, the sacred utensils employed in worship, which were then material, and the loss of which greatly hindered the observance of religion—a calamity which cannot now befall the Church of God in gospel times, since in Christian worship the outward ritual is nothing, but the inward spirit everything.
2. The treasures of the palace, or king's house in the city of David, i.e. the regalia or crown jewels, which are always more or less an object of desire to victorious generals and armies—a smaller calamity than the former, as the destruction of a nation's wealth is a lesser evil than the extinction or suppression of its religion.
3. The golden shields in the house of the forest of Lebanon (2 Chronicles 9:16), which Solomon had made, the LXX. (1 Kings 14:26) adding that he likewise carried off the golden armour David had taken as spoil from the King of Zobah (1 Chronicles 18:7)—the least calamity of the three, the shields being luxuries of which king or nation might be deprived without hurt, and the armour spoil of which either might be deprived without wrong.
III. ITS SPEEDY REPARATION.
1. The nation's loss concealed. Rehoboam covered up as far as he could the damage wrought, especially in his palace, by constructing shields of brass to take the place of those of gold which had been abstracted (see next homily).
2. The king's vanity soothed. He also endeavoured to heal his own wounded vanity, by causing these brazen shields to be borne before him in state procession every time he entered the temple. Just as they had done before with the golden shields, the guards fetched out their spurious substitutes with solemn pomp on every ceremonial day, and when the show was concluded replaced them in the guard-chamber, the spectators probably not being aware of the imposition.
1. The instability of earthly things. A greater king than Shishak will one day plunder kings and common men alike of their material possessions.
2. The facility with which men impose upon themselves, the efforts they make, and the stratagems they resort to, to prop up their fallen greatness or restore their faded glory. Solomon's weak and vain son not the only man who has made brass shields do duty for golden ones.
3. The historic credibility of Scripture. The Shishak invasion is not the only instance in which the monuments have surprisingly corroborated Bible history.—W.
2 Chronicles 12:10
Brazen shields for golden.
I. A VIRTUE. To content one's self with shields of brass when shields of gold cannot be got. "Be content with such things as ye have" (Hebrews 13:5).
II. A HYPOCRISY. To pretend that brazen shields are golden, either:
1. To hide the truth, that our shields of gold have been stolen, lost, or never had an existence: "Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees," etc. (Luke 12:1, Luke 12:2); or:
2. To keep up appearances, and so gratify our vanity by seeming richer or more socially exalted than we are: "Beware of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes," etc, (Luke 20:46).
III. A SERMON
1. To such as serve God with brass when they should do so with gold—an exhortation to liberality.
2. To those who serve God with the appearance of' gold when the inward reality is awanting—a discourse upon sincerity.
3. To them who would serve God with gold but have only brass—a promise of better days when Jehovah's word shall be fulfilled, "For brass I will bring gold" (Isaiah 60:17).—W.
2 Chronicles 12:12
Good things in Judah.
I. A PENITENT MONARCH.
II. A MERCIFUL GOD.
III. A RESTRAINED ENEMY.
IV. A PROSPEROUS PEOPLE.—W.
2 Chronicles 12:13-16
The biography of Rehoboam.
I. HIS ANCESTRY.
1. The son of Solomon, the son of David.
2. The son of Naamah the Ammonitess, the daughter of Hanun the son of Nahash (2 Chronicles 10:1).
II. HIS KINGDOM.
1. Its extent. Judah, with a portion of Benjamin.
2. Its capital. Jerusalem, the city of the great King.
III. HIS REIGN.
1. The beginning of it. When he was forty years of age.
2. The length of it. Seventeen years; short in comparison with that of Solomon.
3. The character of it.
(1) Vigorous: "he strengthened himself" (2 Chronicles 12:13).
(2) Idolatrous: "he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord" (2 Chronicles 12:14).
(3) Troubled: "there were wars continually between him and Jeroboam" (2 Chronicles 12:15).
4. The end of it. Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.
IV. HIS ACTS.
1. All written. From first to last (2 Chronicles 12:15). What a calamity to any man it would be to have all his deeds recorded on the page of history! Yet first and last every action of every man is being engrossed upon the page of God's book of remembrance.
2. Where written? In the book of Shemaiah the prophet, and in that of Iddo concerning genealogies. A small honour compared to being written in the book of life. Not so serious a matter to have one's deeds inscribed upon a perishing page by a human biographer as to have them graven "as with a pen of iron in the rock for ever," by the hand of God's recording angel upon the tablets of eternity.
V. HIS SUCCESSOR.
1. His name. Abijah, or Abijam (2 Chronicles 13:1).
2. His rotgut. In Rehoboam's stead. An honour to Rehoboam that he had a son like Abijah; a mercy to Judah that Abijah was better than his father.—W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17