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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
2 Chronicles 11

 

 

Verses 1-23

EXPOSITION

The first four verses of this chapter would have been better placed as the conclusion of the previous chapter. They correspond with 1 Kings 12:21-24; and they tell how Rehoboam was restrained from making bad worse, in a hopeless attempt to recover the seceding ten tribes, by war that would have been as bloody as foredoomed to failure. "The word of the Lord" to this intent came to the Prophet Shemaiah, and through him to Rehoboam. The remaining verses of the chapter are new matter, and belong to Chronicles alone. They tell how Rehoboam set to work to fortify his towns, or rather many of them (1 Kings 12:5-12); how he received priests and others from the kingdom of the ten tribes (1 Kings 12:13-17); and, last and worst, of the wives and concubines he took (1 Kings 12:18-23).

2 Chronicles 11:1

He gathered of the house of Judah and Benjamin. The parallel (1 Kings 12:21) says more distinctly, "The house of Judah with the tribe of Benjamin." They of Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 10:16) had flung it at Judah: "Now, David, see to thine own house." Rehoboam, of course, does this very thing. For the first time,formally, Benjamin is now introduced as throwing in its lot with Judah, and the acted prophecy of Ahijah is seen fulfilled; the chiefest of the tribes, and the tribe that came of the youngest and most petted of old Jacob's sons, are now wedded to the end. The tribe of Benjamin lay hemmed in between Ephraim, to which it had once much leaned, and to which (as Benjamin was the blood-uncle of Ephraim) it was more closely related, and Judah, with which it had once been at variance (2 Samuel 2:12-32; 2 Samuel 3:1-27; 2 Samuel 20:1). But exactly on the border-line of Judah and Benjamin rose the city Jerusalem and the temple (Joshua 15:8; Joshua 18:16; Jeremiah 20:2); and, beyond doubt, this fact had helped to bring about the much more friendly feeling, if not absolutely close union, that now for some time had existed between these two tribes in their contiguous allotments. A hundred and four-score thousand chosen men, which were warriors. According to Joab, in David's time the men able to bear arms of Judah alone were five hundred thousand (2 Samuel 24:9). Compare the numbers in the next reign (2 Chronicles 13:3), and, later on still, in Jehoshaphat's (2 Chronicles 17:14-18). Both of these show that Abijah and Jehoshaphat respectively had improved the time given to training much larger armies, whereas now Rehoboam was taken by surprise.

2 Chronicles 11:2

Shemaiah the man of God. This is the first historical mention (1 Kings 12:22) of Shemaiah. The second is found in 2 Chronicles 12:5, 2 Chronicles 12:7, on occasion of the invasion of Judah and Jerusalem by Shishak King of Egypt; anti the third, in the same chapter, 2 Chronicles 12:15, that he wrote a book respecting the acts of Rehoboam. The expression, "man of God," owns to a somewhat unexplained history. It is first found in the added part of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 33:1), where it is applied to Moses. It occurs once in Joshua (Joshua 14:6); twice in Judges ( 13:6, 13:8); four times in Samuel (1 Samuel 2:27; 1 Samuel 9:6-8); twenty-nine times in Kings; six times in Chronicles; once each in Ezra, Nehemiah and Jeremiah.

2 Chronicles 11:3

To all Israel in Judah and Benjamin. There is difference of opinion as to who are intended in the expression, "all Israel," already confessedly ambiguous in two other passages. When we consider the mention of Rehoboam personally in the former clause of the verse, it would seem most probable that the meaning is all the people of the nation, resident in the Judah and Benjamin allotments, i.e. the nation called collectively Israel. This will include "the remnant" spoken of in the parallel (1 Kings 12:23, compared with 17).

2 Chronicles 11:4

This thing is from me; i.e. the punishing disruption; not the precedent causes with the entirety of historical events; this punishing and Wither, sing disruption is not to be "lightly healed" The man who did what caused it, the men who did what caused it, cannot thus each undo what they have done—least of all undo it by the appeal of war. They and theirs will have, long as life lasts, as lives last, to go through the baptism of bitter suffering, and leave a heritage of the same for others.

2 Chronicles 11:5-12

These eight verses tell how Rehoboam, relieved of the responsibility of attempting to reconquer the revolted, wisely betakes himself to strengthening and defending what was left to him. He builds fifteen "fenced cities," or "cities for defence," twelve of them south and west of Jerusalem, for lear of Egypt; he fortifies certain strongholds, officering them, provisioning them, and supplying to them and "every several city" the necessary weapons of warfare and shields.

2 Chronicles 11:6

Bethlehem. This was a case not of actual new building of a city, but of restoring and strengthening it. Bethlehem, originally Ephrath (Genesis 35:16; Genesis 48:7), was one of the very oldest towns existent in Jacob's time. It was not called Bethlehem till long after the settlement of the tribes. It was six miles from Jerusalem, on the east of the road to Hebron. Etam. A place near Bethlehem; possibly the resort of Samson after his revenge on the Philistines ( 15:8, 15:11). It was not the Etam mentioned as belonging to Simeon (1 Chronicles 4:32). Tekoa. According to Jerome, as also Eusebius, six Roman miles from Bethlehem, and nine from Jerusalem, or else, possibly by another road, twelve (Jerome's 'Pro-oemium in Amos,' and his 'Onomasticon'). It is absent from the Hebrew catalogue of Judah towns (Joshua 15:49), but is in the Septuagint Version of it. It was the place of the "wise woman" of 2 Samuel 14:2.

2 Chronicles 11:7

Beth-zur. About five miles north of Hebron (see Joshua 15:58; 1 Chronicles 2:45; Nehemiah 3:16). Shoco; properly, Socoh, in the Shefelah (Joshua 15:35). According to Jerome and Eusebius, it was about nine miles from Eleutheropolis, on the road to Jerusalem (see also 1 Samuel 17:1). Adullam. In the Shefelah (Joshua 15:35). It was an ancient place (Genesis 38:1, Genesis 38:12, Genesis 38:20; Joshua 12:15; Nehemiah 11:30). See also the familiar passages (1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15).

2 Chronicles 11:8

Gath. Site still unknown. Some think it may be the Gath-rimmon of Dan (Joshua 19:45). Otherwise it is Gath of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3; 1 Samuel 6:17), and of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4, 1 Samuel 17:23). I.L.P in Dr. Smith's 'Bible Dictionary,' 1.656, wishes to find it on a hill now called Tel-es-Safleh, on one side of the Plain of Philistia, about ten miles east of Ashdod and south—east of Ekron. See also "Topographical Index," p. 411, in Conder's ' andbook to the Bible,' 2nd edit. Other interesting references are 1 Samuel 17:1, 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Chronicles 18:1; 2 Chronicles 26:6; 1 Kings 2:39; 2 Kings 12:17; Amos 6:2. Mareshah. In the Shefelah (Joshua 15:44), now Marash, a short distance south of Eleutheropolis. Zerah the Cushite came here when he was invading Judaea (ch. 14:9. See also ch. 20:37; Micah 1:15). It was taken by John Hyreanus, B.C. 110, and was demolished by the Parthians, B.C. 39. Ziph. Probably the present Tel-Lif, a little south-east of Hebron (Joshua 15:55; see also 24. See also 1 Samuel 23:14-24; 1 Samuel 26:2).

2 Chronicles 11:9

Adoraim. This name is not found anywhere else. The meaning of the word is "two heaps," and very probably describes the physical features of the site. It is probably the modern Dura. Its site is otherwise unknown. Lachish (see Joshua 15:39; also Joshua 10:3; Joshua 12:11); probably the modern Um Lakis, that lies on the road to Gaza. Other interesting references are 2 Kings 14:19; 2 Kings 18:14-17; 2 Kings 19:8; Nehemiah 11:30; Micah 1:13. Azekha (see Joshua 15:35; also Joshua 10:10); it was in the Shefelah (see also 1 Samuel 17:1; Nehemiah 11:30; Jeremiah 34:7). The site of it is not identified.

2 Chronicles 11:10

Zorah. The people of Zorah, or Zoreah, were the Zareathites of 1 Chronicles 2:53; it was the home of Manoah, and the native place of Samson (see Joshua 15:33; Joshua 19:41. Other interesting references are 13:25; 16:31; 18:2-11; Nehemiah 11:29). It belonged to the original allotment of Dan, and is constantly named in company with Eshtaol. Aijalon. The modern Jalo; also originally belonged to allotment of Dan (Joshua 10:12; Joshua 19:42; Joshua 21:24. Other interesting references are 1:35; 1 Samuel 14:31; 1 Kings 14:30; 1 Chronicles 6:66, 1 Chronicles 6:69, 2 Chronicles 28:18). Hebron. One of the most ancient of cities still lasting, rivalling in this respect Damascus. It belonged to Judah and to its hill country (Joshua 15:54; Joshua 20:7); it was about twenty Roman miles south of Jerusalem. Its original name was Kirjath Arba. In Numbers 13:22 it is said that it was built "seven years before Zoan in Egypt," but it is not said when Zoan was built. It now contains about five thousand population, but scarcely a tithe of them Jews. Its long stretch of history is full of incidents of interest, and is partially illustrated by the references that follow: Genesis 13:18; Genesis 23:2-19, Genesis 23:20; Genesis 35:27; Genesis 37:14; Numbers 13:22, Numbers 13:23; Joshua 10:36; Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:13, Joshua 15:14; Joshua 21:11-13; 2 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 5:5; Nehemiah 11:25.

2 Chronicles 11:12

Having Judah and Benjamin on his side. The mention of both tribes just serves to point for us the fact that Benjamin's existence and value were not absolutely ignored, but were for a short while quoted before the kingdom of Rehoboam became called by the name of Judah simply.

2 Chronicles 11:13

The priests and the Levites that were in all Israel resorted to him out of all their coasts. The emphasis thrown into the contents of this verse is evident and agreeable; the ecclesiastical party acted worthily of itself. The priests and Levites could not bring themselves to offer sacrifice and service to the calves, or to forsake Jerusalem and the temple and the true altar. No doubt a stirring, throbbing history underlay the few hut suggestive words which point here the conduct of the priests and Levites. These would not content to stand shoulder to shoulder with priests made not from the tribe of Levi (1 Kings 12:31).

2 Chronicles 11:14

Left their suburbs (so Le 25:34; Numbers 35:1, Numbers 35:3, Numbers 35:7; Joshua 14:4; Joshua 21:12). Jeroboam … had east them off. This glimpse reveals to us, with exceeding probability, that there had been some struggle on the solemn matter; we may readily imagine that Jeroboam had either tried it on in vain with the true priests and Levites, or had learned very conclusively beforehand that it would be vain to try it on (2 Chronicles 13:9).

2 Chronicles 11:15

The high places; i.e. Dan and Bethel (1 Kings 12:28-33). For the devils; i.e. for the "hairy ones" ( שְׂעִירִים). Reference is intended to the idolatrous wore ship of the "he-goats" by the Hebrews, after the example of Egypt, and the reference here is either literal or derived (Le 2 Chronicles 17:7). For the calves (see 1 Kings 12:28).

2 Chronicles 11:16

shows a good example on the part of the clergy, effectual, and followed by the people.

2 Chronicles 11:17

Strengthened … three years. "Righteousness exalteth a nation, but," etc. (Proverbs 14:34; Isaiah 33:6). The sad knell is sounded all too soon; see first verso of next chapter. Three years' strength will soon become weakness, and three years' goodness will save no soul.

2 Chronicles 11:18

The 'Speaker's Commentary' opportunely suggests the probability that we may be indebted here to Iddo's "genealogies" (2 Chronicles 12:15). The word daughter here is a correction of the Keri, the Chethiv having been "son," This Jerimoth is the seventh out of a list of eight men of the same name mentioned in the two books of Chronicles. He is not given as one of the children of David's proper wives in either 1 Chronicles 3:1-8 or 1 Chronicles 14:4-7; Jerome says it was the Jewish tradition that he was the son of a concubine of David. It is just possible that Jerimoth and Ithream were two names of the same person. Abihail was second cousin of Mahalath. It is not quite clear whether Abihail were wife of Jerimoth and mother of Mahalath, or a second wife now mentioned of Rehoboam. The contents of the next verse not differencing the children there mentioned, and assigning her own to each wife of Rehoboam, if these were two wives of his, favours the former supposition (our Hebrew text being "and she bare," not "which bare"). When it is said that Abthail was the daughter of Eliab, the meaning probably is, as again in verse 20, granddaughter. (For Eiiab, see 1 Samuel 16:6; 1 Samuel 17:13; 1 Chronicles 2:13.)

2 Chronicles 11:19

(See last note.) If previous verse speaks of two wives of Rehoboam, of which wife (our Hebrew text being not "which bare," but "and she bare") were Jeush, Shamariah, and Zaham the children? or of which respectively, if they express the children of both? As the words now stand, it can only be supposed, with all lexicons, that Abihail is mother of the three children on the two-wife supposition.

2 Chronicles 11:20

Maachah was the granddaughter of Absalom by his daughter Tamar, wife of Uriel (2 Chronicles 13:2; 11Ki 2 Chronicles 15:2).

2 Chronicles 11:21

Rehoboam was clearly wrong by Deuteronomy 17:17 (note Solomon's Song of Solomon 6:8).

2 Chronicles 11:22

Cancel in this verse the italics "to be." Rehoboam again offends against the "Law" (see Deuteronomy 21:15-17). He cannot justly plead as a precedent the instance of David and Solomon, as in 1 Chronicles 23:1; for this was only justified by the express Divine ordinance, as in 1 Chronicles 23:9; 1 Chronicles 29:1.

2 Chronicles 11:23

The wise dealing of Rehoboam, fourfold, will not, though it were forty-fold, avail to cover his "despising" of the "Law." Rather his wise dealing is an indication that his conscience was not quite at ease, and that he knew he was wrong. Nothing is so liable to blind judgment as personal affection.

HOMILETICS

2 Chronicles 11:1-4, 2 Chronicles 11:5-17, and 2 Chronicles 11:23

The discipline that resulted in obedience, accompanied with right and earnest endeavour.

The homiletic treatment of this chapter centres round two suggestions.

I. THE SIMPLE AND PROMPT OBEDIENCE OF REHOBOAM, IN CERTAIN RESPECTS, TO THE DIVINE MESSAGE OF PROHIBITION. Of which obedience on the part of Rehoboam we may notice:

1. That it compared favourably with the conduct of those who, being bidden and encouraged in every way to go up to war, and to possess a certain goodly land, refused; and, being commanded not to go up, insisted on going (Deuteronomy 1:26, Deuteronomy 1:43), to their discomfiture and defeat.

2. That the mere pride of war must have gone far to make such obedience difficult.

3. That the somewhat juster pride of earnest desire to undo, if possible, his own mischievous doing, and to restore a united nation, must have contributed still further to the difficulty of that obedience.

4. And it is very possible that a sensitive shame in the presence of those young counsellors who had helped to mislead him, but who for certain never offered to help bear the blame of the consequences, may have added some contribution to the difficulty of obedience. Yet Rehoboam's obedience was apparently prompt and unquestioning. Terrible recent experience had not been thrown away, but had so far gained some wisdom for him. And the prophet's distinct announcement that the Lord had recognized and adopted the situation as one for his intervening and overruling providence, must have lent consolation to a truly penitent disposition, saved from remorse had there been tendency thereto, while in no way palliating the sin of either king or people.

II. THE EARNEST AND RIGHT ENDEAVOURS OF REHOBOAM TO SHEPHERD ALL THE BETTER HIS LESSER FLOCK, HIS REDUCED KINGDOM. This was witnessed to in three leading and typical directions.

1. Rehoboam uses all the means o/an outward kind that may "strengthen the things that remain." Cities, and fences, and strongholds, and forts, and stores of food, and all armour are seen to and supplied.

2. It was of deeper significance that he received only too gladly, welcomed out of a true faith then at least, all the priests and Levites who found indeed that Israel was not the place and Jeroboam not the master for them. To have the recognition of religion, the faith of religion, the presence of the practical ministries and ministers of religion, is the salt of the earth, the health of a people, the conserving of the soundness of civil society. Sin, and a grievous tale of it, were the woe of even Judah; but its core was never quite unsound, and its perpetuity was never broken; while rottenness was the very core of Israel, and Jeroboam and their staff was to be broken absolutely.

3. The true, the devout, the pious of the country, those who "set their hearts to seek the Lord God," were likewise received and welcomed at the true altar, at Jerusalem the city of the great King, with their sacrifices and offerings, renewing in the steps of their priests and ministers. We can imagine them pouring up to the city of their solemnities, like the regular health-bringing waters of some tidal river for Judah, who often mourned and was desolate and bereaved; but for themselves, to the drawing of fresh spiritual life, deeper faith, added strength of hope, kindled joy and love, as they offered their sacrifices, paid their vows, and frequented their temple. People and king were strengthened, as thus "they walked in the way of David and Solomon." We could wish it were written without the ominous, ill-sounding qualification of" three years." These things are certainly very observable of Rehoboam at this time, that a remarkable change had come over, not the spirit of his dream, but of his real working life. We hear no more of his young counsellors. They had been found out, and now were no longer clung to, even as "favourites" to whom royalty iniquitously insisted on showing partiality. We recognize no further indications of the hectoring and insolent spirit in which Rehoboam had allowed himself to answer the not unreasonable representations of those who had addressed him on the subject of lightening their acknowledged burdens. We learn of his desire and the beginning of his preparation to attempt to recover the nevertheless irrecoverable. He is divinely prohibited, and that, no doubt, to the saving of greater harm. He acquiesces in the prohibition, and with intensified zeal applies himself to the care of his diminished dominions. He would defend them from outer assault; and they are also the resort and the refuge and the religious home they should be, for all the upright in all the land. From our sight in this one chapter Rehoboam vanishes, emulating steadily for three years the best portions of the examples of his fathers David and Solomon. Unhappily, the end was not yet.

HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON

2 Chronicles 11:1-4

Fighting against brethren.

Rehoboam might have alleged some very strong reasons in defence of the proposed war (2 Chronicles 11:1). He might have pleaded that the tribes had no constitutional or moral right to revolt and secede, and that their secession would seriously and even fatally weaken Israel, and expose it to the mercy of her powerful and unscrupulous neighbours. But the word of the Lord came authoritatively to him, "Ye shall not go up," etc; and the strife was stayed. These words may teach or remind us of—.

I. THE UNSEEMLINESS OF DOMESTIC STRIFE. It is not only such murderous violence as darkened the history of the first human family, and such bitter strife as that which too often divides brothers and sisters into plaintiffs and defendants; it is also the unforgiven offence, or the interminable dispute, which keeps their lives apart, or makes cold the hearts that should be warm with love; and it is also the daily bickerings, accusations, contentions, which come beneath the Divine displeasure. It is not only the presence of strife, it is the absence of love; it is the want of kindness, considerateness, charity, sweetness of look and of tone, which gives dissatisfaction to him who is ever saying, "As I have loved you, love one another."

II. THE PAINFUL INCONGRUITY OF CHURCH DISSENSIONS. Apart from all ecclesiastical controversy, in regard to which there may be honest difference of opinion and of action without any real bitterness of heart, there is often found within the borders of the same Christian community a difference which hardens into a dissension. It is here that the strong, decisive command, against which is no appeal, should be heard, "Ye shall not fight against your brethren." We may not be able to define in language the exact difference between allowable and honourable and even commendable defence of the true and wise in Christian thought and method on the one hand, and a reprehensible and unchristian dissension on the other hand. But if" our eye be single," and our Master's cause be dearer to our heart than our own preferences, we shall know where the difference lies, and we shall heed the prohibition of the text, and the injunction of the apostle, "Be at peace among yourselves" (1 Thessalonians 5:13).

III. THE PECULIAR INIQUITY OF FRATRICIDAL WAR. How pitiful the sight of the armies of Judah arrayed against the armies of Israel; the children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob seeking one another's life, shedding one another's blood! The people of God turning their weapons against each other, weakening the forces of righteousness, helping to extinguish the light that was in the world. Well might the prophetic word be uttered, "Ye shall not fight," etc. The Divine Father of the human family has, since then, looked down on many a sad and shameful fratricidal war—wars in which father and son, brother and brother, have met in deadly contest on the battlefield; wars in which the hearts of those united by the strongest bonds have been inflamed against one another by the fiercest passions. Surely negotiation and concession should be carried to the very last conceivable point before men "go up and fight against their brethren." But it may be said that the words point to—

IV. THE WRONGNESS OF ALL WAR THAT IS ANYWISE AVOIDABLE. And so, indeed, they do. For are we not all brethren? are we not all "members one of another"? Are we not, whatever our nationality may he, children of the same heavenly Father, possessors of the same spiritual nature, fellow-sufferers from the same great spiritual malady, fellow-strugglers against the same spiritual foes, fellow-travellers to the same solemn future? May we not all be the redeemed of the same Divine Saviour, workers in the same holy fields of usefulness, occupants of the same heavenly home? Is it well that we who are brethren, that we who, beneath our superficial distinctions, are so closely and deeply united to one another, that we should be planning one another's destruction, be rejoicing in one another's discomfiture, be exercising our utmost art and putting forth our utmost skill to shed one another's blood? To all those who would enter lightly or needlessly into war, comes the strong and solemn prohibition, "Ye shall not fight against your brethren."—C.

2 Chronicles 11:4

Wrought of God.

"For this thing is done of me." How much has God to do with the events and issues of our life? Speaking in the idiom of the ancient Hebrew writers, we should say—Everything. Speaking after our modern fashion, we should say—Much; and so much that we are altogether wrong and foolish if we do not take it into account. The words of the text, together with the context, suggest—

I. THAT GOD DOES MANY THINGS WHICH, ANTECEDENTLY, WE SHOULD NOT EXPECT HE WOULD DO. Who would have expected, apart from his own warnings, that he would bring about the rupture in the kingdom of Israel? How very preferable, in many ways, does it seem to us that that little kingdom should remain united and strong instead of becoming divided and weak! We should have thought that the Divine wisdom would devise some other punishment for Solomon's vain-gloriousness and defection, for Rehoboam's childish folly, than that which the text tells us was wrought of him; there might have been, we should say, some personal humiliation or some temporary national calamity from which it would soon have revived. But so it was not to be. And though it may yet remain inexplicable, it is certain that this rending of the kingdom in twain was "of God." In the history of our race, in the course of Christianity, we have witnessed or have read of the same thing. Sometimes it has been in the fate of institutions. God has let some prosper that we should have expected him to bring to ruin, and others he has allowed to perish that we should have expected his interposition to save. And many times it has been the lives of men How often have we wondered that the bad and baneful life has not been shortened, that the noble and valuable life has not been spared! How difficult it has been to believe that this thing and that thing were "done of him"! Yet we know that the guilty do not live one day longer than he permits, and we know that "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." We believe, though we cannot see, that God's hand is on all the springs of human life, that he is directing everything, and that those issues which at the time, or long after the time, seemed strange and deplorable, will prove to have been kind and wise and just.

II. THAT THE GUILTY SHOULD ASCRIBE TO HIM THE ISSUES OF THEIR FOLLY. Rehoboam's senseless behaviour at Shechem had obviously much to do with the political disaster that followed. Yet Divine righteousness had so much to do with it that God said," This thing is done of me." Crime, vice, folly, sin, work out their issues in poverty, shame, sorrow, death. The moralist stands over the fallen culprit and says, not untruly, "You have brought this upon yourself; it is your own guilty hand that has brought you to the ground." Yet, with equal truth, and perhaps with greater wisdom and kindness, the prophet of the Lord comes to him and says, "This end of evil is of God; he has brought it about; it is the mark of his Divine displeasure; it is a summons to another and a better course." Conversely, we may add—

III. THAT THE GOOD SHOULD, AND DO, ATTRIBUTE TO HIM THE RESULTS OF THEIR ENDEAVOURS. If it is the action of God's righteous laws, and in that way the working of his hand, that sin ends in misery and ruin, so is it on the other side. It is the outworking of Divine beneficence, it is the result of his wisdom and goodness, it is the consequence of his action, direct and indirect, that the fields are white unto the harvest, that the trees in the Master's vineyard are bringing forth fruit, that the young people are growing up into wisdom and spiritual comeliness, that character is ripening for the heavenly garner, that life is opening out into immortality. "This thing," also, "is of him."—C.

2 Chronicles 11:13-18

Fidelity to conscience.

This migration of priests and people from the other tribes of Israel to Judah and Jerusalem was a serious event in the history of the people of God, and it presents a striking and suggestive spectacle to all time. It is an early illustration of fidelity to conscience.

I. THE SEVERITY OF THE STRUGGLE. These servants of Jehovah, priests and people, had to triumph over great obstacles in order to take the step on which they decided. They had:

1. To set at nought the commandments of the king. This was a more serious thing then than it would be now; it meant more rebelliousness in action, and it involved more danger to the person.

2. To cut themselves adrift from old and sacred associations. They had to forsake their neighbours and (many of them, no doubt) their relatives; many had to leave their vocation or, at any rate, its exercise in familiar spots and among old and early acquaintances; they had to make little of those sentiments of which it is in our human heart to make much.

3. To sacrifice material advantages. Of the Levites we read that they "left their suburbs and their possession" (2 Chronicles 11:14); and we may be sure that those who were not Levites, and who, consequently, would have a much greater interest in the occupancy and holding of the land (Deuteronomy 10:9), made still greater sacrifices than they. The families must have gone forth "not knowing the things that would befall them," but knowing that they would encounter serious loss and discomfort, and would miss much which they had been accustomed to possess and to enjoy.

II. THE WISDOM OF THEIR CHOICE.

1. They pleased God. God would accept and honour their fidelity, which was an act of faithfulness and obedience to himself.

2. They retained their self-respect. This they would not have done if they had conformed to the false rites which Jeroboam had instituted and on which he was insisting; in that case they would have sunk far and fast spiritually, and would soon have lost all hold upon the truth. For we cannot dishonour the truth in the eyes of men and retain our own appreciation of it.

3. They took a course which ennobled them—a course by which they not only became entitled to the honour of their countrymen, but by which they committed themselves definitely to the service of God and confirmed their own faith in him. They did that for which their children and their children's children would "call them blessed" and noble.

4. They added materially to the strength of the kingdom which bore witness to the truth (2 Chronicles 11:17), and helped to make durable its godly institutions.

5. They became located where they could take part in the worship of God according to the requirements of their own conscience. Setting their hearts to seek the Lord God of Israel, they came where they could "sacrifice unto the Lord God of their fathers" (2 Chronicles 11:16). They lost much temporal, but they gained much spiritual advantage. They sowed "not to the flesh, but to the Spirit." They left houses of brick behind them, but they came where they could build up the house of a holy character, of a noble and useful life. There are those in Christian lands who do not likewise, but otherwise. For some temporal considerations they leave the home where there is everything to illumine the mind and enlarge the spirit and enrich the soul, and go where all this is absent. Doubtless the removal from one town to another is an action in which many motives may and should have their force, but let spiritual considerations have a great weight in the balance.—C.

2 Chronicles 11:18-23

Spiritual admixture.

After reading the first fourteen verses of the last chapter (2 Chronicles 10:1-19.), we hardly expect to come across the words, concerning Rehoboam, and he dealt wisely (2 Chronicles 11:23). But this king, though he could certainly be very foolish, was not all folly; like most men, he was a spiritual admixture. We look at—

I. THE SINGULAR SPIRITUAL ADMIXTURE WE FIND IN HIM. The account we have of him is not a long one; it is contained in two or three short chapters, but in these we count seven wise and four foolish actions. We find him (see above)very wise in taking time and in consulting others before giving an important decision on a critical occasion; most foolish in heeding the counsel of the young men; foolish in sending his minister that "was over the tribute" amongst those who were complaining bitterly of their taxation (2 Chronicles 10:18); wise in hearkening to and heeding the Divine prohibition of war (2 Chronicles 11:4); wise in fortifying and storing the strongholds on the frontier (2 Chronicles 11:5-12); wise in welcoming to Judah the priests and people whom Jeroboam had driven away; very foolish indeed in "desiring many wives" (2 Chronicles 11:23) and in establishing so large a harem (2 Chronicles 11:21); wise in choosing so many from the stock of David and in dispersing his sons about his small kingdom, where they could not quarrel among themselves, but be of some service to him; wise in "walking in the way of David" (2 Chronicles 11:17); foolish in departing therefrom after three years of obedience.

II. THE SPIRITUAL ADMIXTURE THERE IS IN US. We find that good men have:

1. Those virtues and failings which seem to go together. They have, as we say, "the faults of their virtues." With much strength and earnestness goes severity in the judgment of other people; with much meekness goes inactivity; with much vivacity and picturesqueness of style goes laxity, if not unveraciousness; with much good-naturedness goes carelessness, etc.

2. Failings which do not naturally accompany virtues. Of some good man whose general integrity we cordially acknowledge, whose excellency and usefulness (perhaps) we even admire, we have to admit reluctantly that he is very vain, or very proud, or very blunt, or very careless; or we have to confess that there is some other defect in his character, perhaps more than one shortcoming. In truth, we have to confront the truths, viz.:

1. That Christian character is an admixture. It is good not unmarked with evil; it is rectitude not without some occasional swerving to the right hand or to the left; it is rather an earnest aspiration or an honest and devout endeavour than a complete attainment; it is a battle that will end in victory, but it is not (yet) the victory; it is a race, and not the runner clasping the goal and receiving the prize.

2. That it behoves us to take heed how we judge. One failing does not unchristianize a character; it is what is in the depth, and not what is on the surface, that decides our position; the "spirit we are of," and not the proprieties of behaviour.

3. That we do well to consider how much alloy is mixed with the pure gold of our own character.—C.

HOMILIES BY T. WHITELAW

2 Chronicles 11:1-4

A warlike expedition hindered.

I. THE KING'S ARMY.

1. Whence collected. From Judah and Benjamin, or that portion of the latter which adhered to Judah.

2. Its place of rendezvous. Jerusalem, the metropolis of the southern kingdom. It was intended that the king's forces should proceed from the capital.

3. The number of its force. A hundred and eighty thousand men—a contingent of the army of Judah.

4. The character of its soldiers. "Chosen men, which were warriors;" picked veterans, because of the importance and difficulty of the expedition upon which they were about to be despatched.

5. The work for which it was designed. "To fight against Israel "—against the ten or nine and a half northern tribes who had lately belonged to the same empire with them, and were still of the same race.

6. The ultimate aim of the expedition. To reduce Israel to subjection. Politically viewed, it was not wrong to aim at the conquest of Israel; only Rehoboam would have done well had he sat down calmly and considered whether he was able, with the help of one or two tribes at most, to overcome ten, with a population vastly larger and equally inured to war with those acknowledging his sway (Luke 14:32). Religiously examined, it is not so certain Rehoboam was pursuing a legitimate aim, seeing that under him, no less than under his father, the unbroken empire had forsaken Jehovah and declined into idolatries, which declension, besides, was the primal cause of the disruption that had taken place.

II. JEHOVAH'S INTERDICT.

1. Through whom conveyed. "Shemaiah the man of God." This prophet appears to have belonged to Judah (2 Chronicles 12:15), and resided in Jerusalem; unlike Ahijah, whose home was in Ephraim (1 Kings 11:29).

2. To whom delivered. "Rehoboam … King of Judah, and to all Israel in Judah and Benjamin." The Divine message was no doubt spoken in the palace to the king and his pnnces, and through them published to the assembled warriors.

3. In what terms issued.

4. How received. In sub-minion and with obedience. Whether this prompt compliance with Heaven's will was due, on the part of Rehoboam, his princes, and his army, to religion, humanity, or worldly policy, is not said by the Chronicler. They may have felt it would be dangerous to fight against God; or been touched by the consideration that the Israelites were, after all, their brethren; or calculated that prudence would be the better part of valour, seeing it was not self-evident they would succeed in their enterprise.

LESSONS.

1. The sinfulness of war, especially of civil war.

2. The paramount authority of God in civil and political, no less than in private and religious, affairs.

3. The presence of God's finger in all social and national movements, in the establishment and overthrow of kings, in the permitting or hindering (as his wisdom determines) of civil strife, etc.

4. The wisdom of obeying God.—W.

2 Chronicles 11:5-17

The strengthening of a kingdom.

I. THE ERECTION OF FORTRESSES. (2 Chronicles 11:5-12.)

1. Their object. To defend the frontiers of the kingdom, against both Israel on the north and Egypt on the south, for which last special need existed, considering the friendly relations which had subsisted between Jeroboam and Shishak. Shishak's invasion, which soon followed, showed Rehoboam's apprehensions not to have been baseless. Though wars are seldom justifiable, it is never wrong or unwise on the part of a prudent monarch to consult for the protection of his country and people.

2. Their names.

(a) On the southern frontier: Bethlehem, mentioned in Jacob's time (Genesis 35:19), two hours south of Jerusalem, the birthplace of David and of Christ (1 Samuel 16:1; Micah 5:1; Matthew 2:5, Matthew 2:11), now Beit-Lahm. Etam, a town probably between Bethlehem and Tekoa, the present village Urtas, south of Bethlehem, near which is the spring called 'Ain Atan. Tekoa, now Tekua, "on the summit of a hill covered with ancient ruins, two hours south of Bethlehem" (Keil). Beth-zur (Joshua 15:58), a town on the watershed, identified with the modern Beth-sur, a ruin midway between Urtas and Hebron.

(b) On the western boundary towards the Philistines: Soco (Joshua 15:35), the present Shuweike in Wady Sumt, three hours and a half south-west from Jerusalem. Adullam (Joshua 15:35), a very old Canaanitish town, that lay in the so-called Shephelah, or lowland, of Judah, probably to be identified with the present Deir Dubban, two hours north of Eleutheropolis. Gath one of the five chief towns of the Philistines (Joshua 13:3), first subjected to the Israelites by David (1 Chronicles 18:1), and under Solomon ruled by its own king, who paid tribute to the Israelitish throne (1 Kings 2:39); according to the 'Onomasticon,' situated five Roman miles from Eleutheropolis, on the road to Dios-polis; otherwise not yet identified, though Conder looks for it in the direction of Tell-es-Safi. Mareshah (Joshua 15:44), near to which Asa defeated the Ethiopian king Zemh (2 Chronicles 14:9), according to Eusebius, lay two Roman miles from, and in all probability is to be sought for in, the ruin Merash, twenty-four minutes south of Beit Jibrin (Eleu-theropolis). Adoram, shortened into Dora (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14.5. 3), is the present-day Dura, a village seven miles and a half west of Hebron, surrounded by olive-groves and corn-fields (Robinson). Lachish, in the lowland of Judah (Joshua 15:39), is probably the present ruin Lakis, three miles west-south-west from Beit Jibrin, situated "on a circular height covered with ancient walls and marble fragments, and overgrown with thistles and bushes" (Robinson, Ritter, Keil; Pressel in Herzog, 8.157; Reihm, 1.876), though Conder prefers to find it in Tell-el-hesy, near Egion. Azekah (Joshua 15:35), east of Ephes-dammim (1 Samuel 17:1), has not been discovered.

(c) On the border of the Edomites: Hebron, originally Kirjath-arba, i.e. the city of Arba, "a great man among the Anakims" (Joshua 14:15; Joshua 15:13; Joshua 21:11), afterwards a settlement of the patriarchs (Genesis 23:2; Genesis 35:27), now called El-Khalil, "the friend of God," in the hill country of Judah, seven hours from Jerusalem, one of the oldest towns of which we possess knowledge, having been "built seven years before Zoan in Egypt" (Numbers 13:22). Ziph, probably in the hill country of Judah (Joshua 15:55), to be looked for in the present ruin Tall Ziph, an hour and a quarter south-east of Hebron.

3. The equipment of these strongholds. Captains were appointed, provisions laid up, and shields and spears stored up in every city (2 Chronicles 11:11).

II. THE REFORMATION OF RELIGION. (2 Chronicles 11:13-17.)

1. The priests and Levites out of all Israel returned to the temple. The occasion of this falling away from Jeroboam was that he and his sons had practically renounced the religion of Jehovah, had set up "high places" of his own in Dan and Bethel, where Jehovah was worshipped in the form of two ox-images, or golden calves, in imitation, most likely, of the images of Apis and Mnevis in Egypt, or of the "calf" made by Aaron in the wilderness, the notion of which doubtless was also borrowed from Egypt (1 Kings 12:28). These calves and other images of animals the Chronicler calls she'erim (Hebrew), "devils" (Authorized Version), "he-goats" or "satyrs" (Revised Version), after which the Israelites had gone a-whoring in Egypt (Joshua 24:14), and even in the wilderness (Le 2 Chronicles 17:7; Amos 5:25, Amos 5:26). "In later times they appear to have connected with it [this worship] notions of goblins, in the form of goats, who haunted the wilderness and laid in wait for women" (Gerlach). Jeroboam, then, having set up this rival form of worship, had no further use for the regularly ordained priests and Levites, unless they would conform to the new cultus; and because they would not, he cast them out from their offices and would no more allow them "to sacrifice unto the Lord." It says a good deal for their conscientiousness and courage that, rather than renounce what they believed to be the true religion, or worship God otherwise than according to their consciences, they cheerfully abandoned "their suburbs and possession"—in modern phraseology, their residences and emoluments; Scottice, their manses and glebes. They were the first nonconformists in the northern kingdom.

2. The pious worshippers of Jehovah out o/ all Israel returned to Jerusalem. These are described:

3. Rehoboam and his princes returned to the service of Jehovah.

Learn:

1. The worthlessness to a kingdom of fortresses without religion.

2. The worthlessness to a person of religion without sincerity and truth.

3. The worthlessness to a state of a king without a God.

4. The worthlessness to either state or individual of goodness that is not permanent.—W.

2 Chronicles 11:18-23

A royal polygamist.

I. REHOBOAM'S WIVES.

1. The number of them. In all eighteen wives and sixty concubines. Solomon had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11:3). David even had more wives and concubines than was good for him (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:13; 2 Samuel 12:8). Oriental monarchs generally had well-filled harems. Rameses II. had a hundred and nineteen children (sixty sons and fifty-nine daughters), "which gives ground for supposing a great number of concubines, besides his lawful wives". Poly- gamy was also permitted to, and practised by, the monarchs of Assyria, whose palaces accordingly were guarded by a whole army of eunuchs Sayce, 'Assyria, its Princes, Priests, and People,' p. 129).

2. The chief of them.

II. REHOBOAM'S CHILDREN.

1. The number of his sons. Twenty-eight, among whom were

2. The favourite amongst his sons. Abijah. Though not the firstborn, Rehoboam designated him as successor to the throne, no doubt to the injury and displeasure of the firstborn; but in doing so, if he obeyed not the Law (Deuteronomy 21:16), he at least followed the example of David, who preferred Bathsheba's son Solomon to the throne, instead of his firstborn, Amnon the son of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. He also made Abijah ruler among his brethren, set him at their head, appointed him as governor over them in the various state offices they held, and entrusted to him the crown treasures and the strongest cities (Josephus, 'Ant.,' 8.10. 1).

3. The treatment of his other sons. He "dealt wisely" with them.

LESSONS.

1. The misery as well as sin of polygamy, leading as it does to divided affections and unjustifiable partialities.

2. The duty of dealing wisely with children, but not after the fashion of Rehoboam.—W.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Chronicles 11:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/2-chronicles-11.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29
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