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Bible Commentaries
1 Kings 12

Wesley's Explanatory NotesWesley's Notes

Verse 1

And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.

Were come — Rehoboam did not call them thither, but went thither, because the Israelites prevented him, and had pitched upon that place, rather than upon Jerusalem, because it was most convenient for all, being in the center of the kingdom; and because that being in the potent tribe of Ephraim, they supposed there they might use that freedom of speech, which they resolved to use, to get there grievances redressed. So out of a thousand wives and concubines, he had but one son to bear his name, and he a fool! Is not sin an ill way of building up a family?

Verse 3

That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

They sent — When the people sent him word of Solomon’s death, they also sent a summons for him to come to Shechem. That the presence and countenance of a man of so great interest and reputation, might lay the greater obligation upon Rehoboam to grant them ease and relief.

Verse 4

Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

Grievous — By heavy taxes and impositions, not only for the temple and his magnificent buildings, but for the expenses of his numerous court, and of so many wives and concubines. And Solomon having so grossly forsaken God, it is no wonder if he oppressed the people.

Verse 7

And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.

This day — By complying with their desires, and condescending to them for a season, till thou art better established in thy throne. They use this expression, fore-seeing that some would dissuade him from this course, as below the majesty of a prince.

And answer — Thy service is not hard, it is only a few good words, which it is as easy to give as bad ones.

Verse 8

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:

Young men — So called, comparatively to the old men: otherwise they were near forty years old.

Verse 10

And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s loins.

Shall be thicker — Or rather, is thicker, and therefore stronger, and more able to crush you, if you proceed in these mutinous demands, than his loins, in which is the principal seat of strength.

Verse 15

Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

From the Lord — Who gave up Rehoboam to so foolish and fatal a mistake, and alienated the peoples affections from him; and ordered all circumstances by his wise providence to that end.

Verse 16

So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.

In David — In David’s family and son; we can expect no benefit or relief from him, and therefore we renounce all commerce with him, and subjection to him. They named David, rather than Rehoboam; to signify, that they renounced not Rehoboam only, but all David’s family.

Son of Jesse — So they call David in contempt; as if they had said, Rehoboam hath no reason to carry himself with such pride and contempt toward his people; for if we trace his original, it was as mean and obscure as any of ours.

To your tents — Let us forsake him, and go to our own homes, there to consider, how to provide for ourselves.

Verse 17

But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.

Judah — The tribe of Judah; with those parts of the tribes of Levi, and Simeon, and Benjamin, whose dwellings were within the confines of Judah.

Verse 18

Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.

Sent Adoram — Probably to pursue the counsel which he had resolved upon, to execute his office, and exact their tribute with rigour and violence, if need were.

Verse 19

So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

Rebelled — Their revolt was sinful, as they did not this in compliance with God’s counsel, but to gratify their own passions.

Verse 20

And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.

Was come — From Egypt; which was known to them before who met at Shechem, and now by all the people.

Was none — That is, no entire tribe.

Verse 24

Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.

From me — This event is from my counsel and providence, to punish Solomon’s apostasy.

Verse 25

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.

Shechem — He repaired, and enlarged, and fortified it; for it had been ruined long since, Judges 9:45. He might chuse it as a place both auspicious, because here the foundation of his monarchy was laid; and commodious, as being near the frontiers of his kingdom.

Penuel — A place beyond Jordan; to secure that part of his dominions.

Verse 26

And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

Said, … — Reasoned within himself. The phrase discovers the fountain of his error, that he did not consult with God, who had given him the kingdom; as in all reason, and justice, and gratitude he should have done: nor believed God’s promise, chap11:38, but his own carnal policy.

Verse 27

If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.

Will turn — Which in itself might seem a prudent conjecture; for this would give Rehoboam, and the priests, and Levites, the sure and faithful friends of David’s house, many opportunities of alienating their minds from him, and reducing them to their former allegiance. But considering God’s providence, by which the hearts of all men, and the affairs of all kingdoms are governed, and of which he had lately seen so eminent an instance; it was a foolish, as well as wicked course.

Verse 28

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

Calves — In imitation of Aaron’s golden calf, and of the Egyptians, from whom he was lately come. And this he the rather presumed to do, because he knew the people of Israel were generally prone to idolatry: and that Solomon’s example had exceedingly strengthened those inclinations; and therefore they were prepared for such an attempt; especially, when his proposition tended to their own ease, and safety, and profit, which he knew was much dearer to them, as well as to himself, than their religion.

Too much — Too great a trouble and charge, and neither necessary, nor safe for them, as things now stood.

Behold thy gods — Not as if he thought to persuade the people, that these calves were that very God of Israel, who brought them out of Egypt: which was so monstrously absurd and ridiculous, that no Israelite in his right wits could believe it, and had been so far from satisfying his people, that this would have made him both hateful, and contemptible to them; but his meaning was, that these Images were visible representations, by which he designed to worship the true God of Israel, as appears, partly from that parallel place, Exodus 32:4, partly, because the priests and worshippers of the calves, are said to worship Jehovah; and upon that account, are distinguished from those belonging to Baal, 1 Kings 18:21; 1 Kings 22:6-7, and partly, from Jeroboam’s design in this work, which was to quiet the peoples minds, and remove their scruples about going to Jerusalem to worship their God in that place, as they were commanded: which he doth, by signifying to them, that he did not intend any alteration in the substance of their religion; nor to draw them from the worship of the true God, to the worship of any of those Baals, which were set up by Solomon; but to worship that self-same God whom they worshipped in Jerusalem, even the true God, who brought them out of Egypt; only to vary a circumstance: and that as they worshipped God at Jerusalem, before one visible sign, even the ark, and the sacred cherubim there; so his subjects should worship God by another visible sign, even that of the calves, in other places; and as for the change of the place, he might suggest to them, that God was present in all places, where men with honest minds called upon him; that before the temple was built, the best of kings, and prophets, and people, did pray, and sacrifice to God in divers high places, without any scruple. And that God would dispense with them also in that matter; because going to Jerusalem was dangerous to them at this time; and God would have mercy, rather than sacrifice.

Verse 29

And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

Beth-el, … — Which two places he chose for his peoples conveniency; Beth-el being in the southern, and Dan in the northern parts of his kingdom.

Verse 30

And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

A sin — That is, an occasion of great wickedness, not only of idolatry, which is called sin by way of eminency; nor only of the worship of the calves, wherein they pretended to worship the true God; but also of the worship of Baal, and of the utter desertion of the true God; and of all sorts of impiety.

To Dan — Which is not here mentioned exclusively, for they went also to Beth-el, verse32,33, but for other reasons, either because that of Dan was first made, the people in those parts having been long leavened with idolatry, Judges 18:30, or to shew the peoples readiness and zeal for idols; that those who lived in, or near Beth-el, had not patience to stay ’till that calf was finished, but all of them were forward to go as far as Dan, which was in the utmost borders of the land, to worship an idol there; when it was thought too much for them to go to Jerusalem to worship God.

Verse 31

And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.

An house — Houses, or chapels, besides the temples, which are built at Dan and Beth-el; he built also for his peoples better accommodation, lesser temples upon divers high places.

Of the lowest — Which he might do, either, 1. because the better sort refused it, or, 2. because such would be satisfied with mean allowances; and so he could put into his own purse a great part of the revenues of the Levites, which doubtless he seized upon when they forsook him, and went to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 11:13-14, or, 3. because mean persons would depend upon his favour, and therefore be pliable to his humour, and firm to his interest, but the words in the Hebrew properly signify, from the ends of the people; which may be translated thus, out of all the people; promiscuously out of every tribe. Which exposition seems to be confirmed by the following words, added to explain these, which were not of the sons of Levi; though they were not of the tribe of Levi. And that indeed was Jeroboam’s sin; not that he chose mean persons, for some of the Levites were such; and his sin had not been less, if he had chosen the noblest and greatest persons; as we see in the example of Uzziah. But that he chose men of other tribes, contrary to God’s appointment, which restrained that office to that tribe.

Levi — To whom that office was confined by God’s express command.

Verse 32

And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.

A feast — The feast of tabernacles. So he would keep God’s feast, not in God’s time, which was the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and so onward, Leviticus 23:34, but on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. And this alteration he made, either, 1. to keep up the difference between his subjects, and those of Judah as by the differing manners, so by the distinct times of their worship. Or, 2. lest he should seem directly to oppose the God of Israel, (who had in a special manner obliged all the people to go up to Jerusalem at that time,) by requiring their attendance to celebrate the feast elsewhere, at the same time. Or, 3. to engage as many persons as possibly he could, to come to his feast; which they would more willingly do when the feast at Jerusalem was past and all the fruits of the earth were perfectly gathered in.

Fifteenth day — And so onward till the seven days ended.

Like that in Judah — He took his pattern thence, to shew, that he worshipped the same God, and professed the same religion for substance, which they did: howsoever he differed in circumstances.

He offered — Either, 1. by his priests. Or, rather, 2. by his own hands; as appears from chap13:1,4, which he did, to give the more countenance to his new-devised solemnity. Nor is this strange; for he might plausibly think, that he who by his own authority had made others priests might much more exercise a part of that office; at least, upon an extraordinary occasion; in which case, he knew David himself had done some things, which otherwise he might not do.

So he did — He himself did offer there in like manner, as he now had done at Dan.

Verse 33

So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.

Devised — Which he appointed without any warrant from God.

Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/1-kings-12.html. 1765.
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