Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Kings 12:4

"Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Government;   Israel;   Jeroboam;   Petition;   Rehoboam;   Revolt;   Rulers;   Solomon;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Kings;   Tribute;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Rehoboam;   Shechem;   Yoke;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jeroboam;   Jerusalem;   King;   Rehoboam;   Solomon;   Yoke;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Kings, First and Second, Theology of;   Poor and Poverty, Theology of;   Wages;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Israel, Kingdom of;   Rehoboam;   Taxes;   Yoke;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Kings, the Books of;   Taxes;   Yoke;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Kings, 1 and 2;   Service;   Tribes of Israel, the;   Yoke;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Israel;   Rehoboam,;   Solomon;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Yoke;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Rehoboam ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Solomon;   Tax taxing taxation;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Yoke;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Government of the Hebrews;   Jeroboam;   Tribute;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Revolt;   Kingdom of Israel;   Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Grievous;   King;   Yoke;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Kings, Books of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The grievous service - and - heavy yoke - They seem here to complain of two things - excessively laborious service, and a heavy taxation. At first it is supposed Solomon employed no Israelite in drudgery: afterwards, when he forsook the God of compassion, he seems to have used them as slaves, and to have revived the Egyptian bondage.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-kings-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The complaint was probably twofold. The Israelites no doubt complained in part of the heavy weight of taxation laid upon them for the maintenance of the monarch and his court 1 Kings 4:19-23. But their chief grievance was the forced labor to which they had been subjected 1 Kings 5:13-14; 1 Kings 11:28. Forced labor has been among the causes leading to insurrection in many ages and countries. It helped to bring about the French Revolution, and it was for many years one of the principal grievances of the Russian serfs. Jeroboam‘s position as superintendent of the forced labors of the tribe of Ephraim 1 Kings 11:28 revealed to him the large amount of dissatisfaction which Solomon‘s system had produced, and his contemplated rebellion in Solomon‘s reign may have been connected with this standing grievance.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-kings-12.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Thy father made our yoke grievous,.... Laid heavy taxes upon them, for the finishing of his buildings, for the maintenance of his household, for keeping such a large number of horses and chariots, and for the salaries of his officers, and for the support of his magnificent court; though they had very little reason to complain, since this was for the honour and grandeur of their nation, and they enjoyed their liberty, and lived in peace, plenty, and safety all his days; and such an abundance of riches was brought unto them by him that silver was as the stones of the street; though perhaps the taxes might be increased in the latter part of his life, for the support of his vast number of wives, and of their idolatrous worship, and for the defence of himself and kingdom against the attempts of Hadad and Rezon; but, as most interpreters observe, what they find most reason to complain of, they take no notice of, even the idolatry he had set up among them:

now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us lighter; that is, ease them of their taxes, or lessen them:

and we will serve thee; acknowledge him as their king, give him homage, and yield obedience to him.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-12.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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, a lighter, and we will serve thee.

(a) Do not oppress us with such high taxes, which we are not able to pay.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-kings-12.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Thy father made our yoke grievous — The splendor of Solomon‘s court and the magnitude of his undertakings being such, that neither the tribute of dependent states, nor the presents of foreign princes, nor the profits of his commercial enterprises, were adequate to carry them on, he had been obliged, for obtaining the necessary revenue, to begin a system of heavy taxation. The people looked only to the burdens, not to the benefits they derived from Solomon‘s peaceful and prosperous reign - and the evils from which they demanded deliverance were civil oppressions, not idolatry, to which they appear to have been indifferent or approving.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/1-kings-12.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/1-kings-12.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

1 Kings 12:4 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.

Ver. 4. Thy father made our yoke grievous.] We are sensible how our necks were pinched and galled by means of thy father’s works and wars; the hard services and great taxes put upon us for the maintenance of his royalty, and great retinue of strange women especially; which charge they could not bear, but their idolatry they could well enough brook. Worldly men are only sensible of worldly damages: Mundi divitias magis amant quam Christi delicias.

Make thou his heavy yoke lighter.] Alleva iugum. These malcontented Mεμψιμοιροι had had a fine time, a golden age under Solomon’s government, but never found the worth, till they felt the want of it. Bona a tergo sunt formosissima, blessings are most beautiful behind.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-kings-12.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

1 Kings 12:4. Thy father made our yoke grievous What the particular grievances were which these people desire to have redressed, we may gather from chap. 1 Kings 4:7 namely, the tribute that Solomon exacted for his buildings, the expences of his family, and the maintenance of his chariots and horses. It is observable, that among all their complaints they take no notice of Solomon's idolatry, or the strange worship introduced by him; though this, one would think, should have been reckoned one of their greater grievances.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/1-kings-12.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Thy father made our yoke 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, whose luxury and idolatry must needs be very costly. And Solomon having so grossly forsaken God, it is no wonder if he oppressed the people, and made their yoke most grievous, as they speak. But here the people’s perverseness is very observable, both in this, that they mention and aggravate only the grievances of the government, but take no notice of the vast benefits which they received from it; and in that, that they mind nothing but their outward pressures, and have no regard unto that abominable idolatry which he set up among them; being, it seemed, either leavened with it by his pernicious example, or grown careless and negligent of all the concerns of religion; by which, see how ripe they were for all those dreadful judgments of God which are now hastening upon them.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/1-kings-12.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.Thy father made our yoke grievous — Some have doubted whether Solomon really oppressed the people with severe exactions, and have thought that these complaints were only a pretence to cover their purpose of rebellion. But the probability is, that these complaints had some foundation. The people who once clamoured for a king that they might be like the nations round them, now began to realize the truth of Samuel’s prediction as to the cost of maintaining a king and a court. 1 Samuel 8:11-18. The vast levies of men raised by Solomon to build the temple, and the palace, and the fortifications of Jerusalem and other cities, (1 Kings 9:15,) must have severely taxed the people, and this grievous yoke quite likely grew heavier with Solomon’s advance in years.

And we will serve thee — Was this promise made in good faith? Doubtless their purpose of revolt was fixed in case Rehoboam refused to accede to their demands; but had he agreed to make their burdens lighter, there is reason to believe they would have remained in allegiance to the house of David.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-12.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Your father made our yoke grievous. Now therefore you make the grievous service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, lighter, and we will serve you.”

The Israelites then sent a deputation to put their requirements to Rehoboam, which no doubt included Jeroboam. Their terms were very simple. They were prepared to acknowledge Rehoboam as their king on condition that he could assure them that he would lighten the yoke that his father had put on them with his building schemes and constant demands. They wanted a relaxation of the pressure on them so that they could concentrate more on their own welfare and their families.

1 Kings 12:5

And he said to them, “Depart yet for three days, then come to me again.” And the people departed.’

Rehoboam then asked for three days in which he could consider the matter before he gave his reply. This was not unreasonable as they would want him to come forward with some concrete proposals. They saw kingship in Israel as something resulting from a covenant between the king and the people. Even in the case of Solomon he had been made king while the Hebron covenant with David had still been active, and his kingship was later renewed and acknowledged by Israel (1 Chronicles 29:22). So they went away feeling quite hopeful. Concessions on taxes and on labour levies were often a regular feature on the accession of a new ruler, something evidenced in inscriptions.

1 Kings 12:6

And king Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, “What counsel do you give me so as to return answer to this people?” ’

Rehoboam then called together his father’s old counsellors, men of wide experience and politically astute, and asked them how, in their view, he should reply.

1 Kings 12:7

And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people this day, and will serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants for ever.” ’

Their reply was that in their view if he was willing to meet the men of Israel half way, with a little humility, and consider Israel’s genuine grievances, recognising at the same time that one of his duties as king was to serve his people, he would win them over and they would become his loyal subjects permanently. They recognised the goodwill and sense of loyalty that Israel had towards Solomon’s son, and that Israel had a genuine grievance.

1 Kings 12:8

But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and took counsel with the young men who were grown up with him, who stood before him.’

But Rehoboam was not happy with their advice. His ‘wise’ father had not brought him up to consider the good of the people. Rather he had brought him up with an overbearing attitude of arrogance and self-interest. An arrogant and despotic father rarely produces a considerate son. So Rehoboam did not feel that what his counsellor’s were advising was a good idea. He felt that it was too humiliating, and giving too much away. Thus he then turned to the younger men who had grown up with him at court, and who were constantly in his presence.

1 Kings 12:9

And he said to them, “What counsel do you give, that we may return answer to this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Make the yoke that your father put on us lighter?’ ”

He asked them how they felt that he should reply to Israel’s request for their yoke to be made lighter. The answer was really a foregone conclusion, for to a man they were as arrogant and despotic as Rehoboam himself. They were the younger aristocrats of the court who saw themselves as being God’s gift to the world in the wrong sense, and they had grown up under Solomon’s despotic rule.

1 Kings 12:10-11

And the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus shall you say to this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but do you make it lighter to us’, thus shall you speak to them, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. And now whereas my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”

These younger men (men of military age and therefore young in contrast with the aged counsellors, but probably mature in age, for Rehoboam himself was 41 years of age (1 Kings 14:21) and had eighteen wives, sixty concubines, twenty eight sons and sixty daughters - 2 Chronicles 11:21) had grown up with him at court, and they gave him the answer that fitted in with his own attitude. Let him show the men of Israel who was in charge, and let them know that he was even more of a man, and even stronger, than his father and that he would do precisely as he liked. Let him inform the rebellious people that his little finger was thicker than his father’s thighs. In other words that he was tougher than his father and would do precisely as he liked. So whereas his father had simply beaten them with whips, he would beat them with scorpions. The intention was to frighten them into submission. And if they would not submit, so much the worse for them.

By this he was, of course, negating God’s covenant with David which had been based on his walking in YHWH’s ways and doing what was right in his eyes. He was basically declaring that did not intend to walk by that covenant. He was going to walk in his own ways.

1 Kings 12:12

So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had bidden saying, “Come to me again the third day.” ’

Thus when Jeroboam and all the elders of Israel came on the third day to receive Rehoboam’s reply he was in no mood for compromise.

1 Kings 12:13-14

And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and spoke to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” ’

And he answered the people roughly, ignoring the advice of the wiser old men, and relying on the counsel of his contemporaries. Let Israel recognise that they were not dealing with any soft option. If his father had made their yoke heavy, he would add to it and make it heavier. His father may have chastened them with whips, but he would beat them with scorpions, the creatures whose painful sting was almost beyond bearing. They would be made to pay for their insubordination.

Some see ‘scorpions’ as referring to a special kind of whip into which were woven sharp pieces of bone or metal which increased the potency of the whip. But there is really no need to destroy the typically vivid metaphor.

1 Kings 12:15

So the king did not listen to the people, for it was something brought about of YHWH, that he might establish his word, which YHWH spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.’

The reply was so foolish that the prophetic author knew that there could only be one explanation for it. It was of YHWH, so as to bring about His purposes. It was in order that He might establish the word that He had spoken to Ahijah the Shilonite, to be passed on to Jeroboam (1 Kings 11:35-39). That did not, of course, excuse Rehoboam, whose behaviour was simply that of a spoiled and very arrogant person. He had behaved as he had been brought up to behave, following the example of his father. But the prophetic author points out that YHWH takes up such folly and uses it to bring about His purposes.

1 Kings 12:16

And when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to 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 your own house, David.” So Israel departed to their tents.’

The people of Israel, however, were in a determined mood. They had been prepared to cooperate, but their lives had become so unbearable that what Rehoboam threatened could only take them over the edge. So when they saw that he had not listened to them, they boldly declared that they no longer ‘had any portion in David’. They no longer saw themselves as being in the Davidic covenant, or saw the Davidic house as having authority over them. They no longer saw the son of Jesse as their inheritance. From now on ‘David’ (Rehoboam) could look after his own house. They would return to the freedom of their own homes no longer under ‘David’s’ yoke. It was a total rejection of any covenant that they had had with David or his house.

“What portion have we in David? Neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel.” For this compare 2 Samuel 20:1. This was seemingly a regular way of indicating a withdrawal from negotiations and from any covenant which might be seen as binding them. It also indicates that they did not see their relationship with the house of David as having been too binding. It was dependent on mutual response. Covenants were two-sided.

We have a clear indication here that the representative of the Davidic house could be spoken of as ‘David’, something to be borne in mind whenever ‘David’ is mentioned in the future. (Thus ‘for David’ in the Psalms may sometimes simply refer to the current member of the Davidic house, while the mention of ‘David’ in the prophets looked forward to the future king).

The consequence of all this was that Israel returned to their homes (‘departed to their tents’, i.e. their places of abode, a phrase carried over from their wilderness days). They would choose their own king. Considering the forces that were at Rehoboam’s disposal it was a decision that required some bravery. But they clearly felt that they had had enough, come what may. Such had been the wisdom that Solomon had inculcated in his son.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/1-kings-12.html. 2013.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

1 Kings 12:4. Thy father made our yoke 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 the maintenance of so many chariots and horses. Thus they began with a complaint against the former government; and, as Solomon had so grossly forsaken God, it is no wonder if he oppressed the people. The burdens, however, of which they complain, could not be so heavy as they represented them, considering the peace and plenty which they enjoyed, (1 Kings 4:25,) and the vast riches he brought into the kingdom; and it is expressly said, (1 Kings 9:22,) that Solomon made no Israelite a bondman. But to those desirous of a change, a light cause seems sufficient. Make thou the grievous service of thy father lighter, &c. — They promise to submit to Rehoboam as their king, and be his faithful subjects, if he would promise to ease them of those burdens which his father had imposed on them.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/1-kings-12.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Yoke, of personal service, (Calmet) first to build the temple, and afterwards to erect palaces, fortify cities, &c. The works of Mello gave the greatest discontent. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-kings-12.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

made our yoke grievous. Made by Jeroboam himself owing to the opportunity afforded by Solomon"s action (1 Kings 11:28).

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-kings-12.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father and his heavy yoke lighter There are Now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke ... lighter. There are strong reasons for believing that the exactions of Solomon from his own people were heavy and severe, not only in regard to their contributions in produce (1 Kings 4:27), but to the compulsory levies of the able-bodied, married as well as unmarried, that were drafted periodically to work on the mountains, or in the subterranean quarries, at the public buildings and diversified undertakings, which fully justified the complaint made to his son. It was the voice of 'all Israel; but considering the remarkable fertility of Shechem and the whole surrounding region, the industrious inhabitants of that central district must have felt the government imposts as peculiarly burdensome. In that view, their language and demeanour in the statement of their grievances, and the demand for a diminution of the public burdens, is wonderfully moderate, demonstrating the presence and influence of those superior classes who were compelled, for the enjoyment of its religious advantages, to migrate to the kingdom of Judah (cf. Michaelis 'Commentary on the Laws of Moses,' 1:, p. 284-287). The splendour of Solomon's court and the magnitude of his undertakings being such that neither the tribute of dependent states, nor the presents of foreign princes, nor the profits of his commercial enterprises, were adequate to carry them on, he had been obliged, for obtaining the necessary revenue, to begin a system of heavy taxation. The people looked only to the burdens, not to the benefits they derived from Solomon's peaceful and prosperous reign; and the evils from which they demanded deliverance were civil oppressions, not idolatry to which they appear to have been indifferent, or approved of it.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/1-kings-12.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) We will serve thee.—It seems evident from the tone of the narrative, and especially from the absence of all resentment on the part of the king on the presentation of these conditions, that they were acting within their right; and whatever Jeroboam’s designs may have been, there is no sign of any general predetermination of rebellion. The imposition of the burdens of heavy taxation and forced labour on the people was against old traditions, and even against the practice of Solomon’s earlier years. (See 1 Kings 4:20; 1 Kings 9:20-22.) To demand a removal, or alleviation of these was perfectly compatible with a loyal willingness to “serve” the new king. The demand might naturally be suggested by Jeroboam, who, by his official position, knew well the severity of the burden.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-kings-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
our yoke
4:7,20,22,23,25; 9:15,22,23; 1 Samuel 8:11-18; 2 Chronicles 10:4,5; Matthew 11:29,30; Matthew 23:4; 1 John 5:3
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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-kings-12.html.