Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

1 Kings 12:7

Then they spoke to him, saying, "If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Government;   Jeroboam;   Petition;   Prudence;   Rehoboam;   Revolt;   Young Men;   Thompson Chain Reference - Counsel;   Wise;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Kings;   Prudence;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Rehoboam;   Shechem;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Jeroboam;   Jerusalem;   Rehoboam;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Counselor;   Elder;   Kings, First and Second, Theology of;   Wages;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Israel, Kingdom of;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Altar;   Kings, the Books of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Counselor;   Kings, 1 and 2;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Israel;   Rehoboam,;   Solomon;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Rehoboam ;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Government of the Hebrews;   Jeroboam;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Revolt;   Kingdom of Israel;   Kingdom of Judah;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Servant;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Kings, Books of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

If thou wilt be a servant unto this people - This is a constitutional idea of a king: he is the servant, but not the slave of his people; every regal act of a just king is an act of service to the state. The king is not only the fountain of law and justice; but as he has the appointment of all officers and judges, consequently he is the executor of the laws; and all justice is administered in his name. Properly speaking, a good and constitutional king is the servant of his people; and in being such he is their father and their king.

They will be thy servants for ever - The way to insure the obedience of the people is to hold the reins of empire with a steady and impartial hand; let the people see that the king lives for them, and not for himself; and they will obey, love, and defend him. The state is maintained on the part of the ruler and the ruled by mutual acts of service and benevolence. A good king has no self-interest; and such a king will ever have obedient and loving subjects. The haughty, proud tyrant will have a suspicious and jealous people, hourly ripening for revolt. The king is made for the people, not the people for the king. Let every potentate wisely consider this; and let every subject know that the heaviest cares rest on the heart, and the heaviest responsibility rests on the head, of the king. Let them therefore, under his government, fashion themselves as obedient children; acknowledge him their head; and duly consider whose authority he has; that they may love, honor and obey him. Happy are the people who have such a king; safe is the king who has such a people.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/1-kings-12.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The advice was not that the king should permanently resign the office of ruler, but that he should “for once” be ruled by his people.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/1-kings-12.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

1 Kings 12:7

If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day . . . then they will be thy servants for ever.

A royal servant

These words are of deep-reaching import, and contain a principle of universal application. They especially apply to starts in life. When the son leaves the parental home for his new calling, for foreign land, to make his way in the world, our text contains a sentence which the father may, at the last moment of departure, whisper in his ear as an expression of the deepest thoughts in his heart for the guidance of the young beginner. To fulfil these words beautifies life, to have fulfilled them softens death. They contain a prescription which one can never repent of following.

I. The folly of Rehoboam. In the ancient, town of Shechem, a town that recalls to the Israelite memories of patriarchal limes, a king is about to be crowned. Solomon the Great has gone the way of all his fathers, and by right of succession the crown falls to Rehoboam his son. All Israel assembled at Shechem to make him king. For ages that old city had retained traces of its ancient dignity, just as Rheims, the old capital of France, continued to be the scene of coronations long after it had ceased to be the national capital. There was a time when Amsterdam was threatened to be deprived of its right of Royal Coronation, but since the severance of Belgium and Holland, the New Church here holds that honour undisputed. Shechem was full of representatives from all parts of the country. The king came down in royal state from Jerusalem. No opposition was offered to Rehoboam’s succession. He was the only son of Solomon, and the people were prepared to receive him as such. They had, however, many grievances which they wished to have redressed. Solomon had not been everything that a king should be.

II. The prerogative of service. A wise king would have at once acceded to such a request. But Rehoboam, although the son of a wise father, had not the common sense to do so. Wisdom is not inherited. “Who knoweth whether his son will be a wise man or a fool?” He was the king. The people had no rights but what he chose to give them. They were his servants, not he their servant. His will was their law. He knew nothing and would hear nothing of the rights of the individual. According to the mind of Jesus, he is the greatest who renders the greatest service to others. “They assert that the strength of a monarch’s throne is service for and sympathy with his people.” A throne built on such a foundation will last unshaken for ever. Oh, happy king to have such counsellors! Oh, foolish man to turn aside from them! The consequence of this incredibly foolish reply was such as might have been expected. “The work of two generations was undone in a moment.” Under the leadership of Jeroboam, who promised them the reforms they wanted, the Ten Tribes revolted.

III. Selfish autocracy. It is the old story of the consequence of selfish and inconsiderate autocracy. It is a lesson which makes but slow progress in the minds of men. The old heathen idea of forcible dominion is still largely the governing one of politics--that to be great is to receive much service, not to render it. Politics has too often been a game of ambition rather than a sphere of service. (W. Thomson, M. A., B. D.)

The king as a servant

The honour of service is emphasised by Solomon in the title he gives to his father. He speaks of him by a more honourable name than that of king--“Thy servant David.” Solomon recognised that he owed his exalted.position entirely to God. The most universal function in nature is that of service. Nothing in creation is serving itself, but every element is intended to serve some other. The flowers bloom in beauty, but soon serve us by transformation into seed. The winds purify the earth. The clouds carry moisture across all regions. The sun is regal in majestic splendour, but this monarch of the planets is, in reality, far more their servant, as their light and heat bearer. Above all, the idea of service is ennobled by Jesus, who as minister to His disciples was “servant of all.” So are we to seek to serve God and man. (Christian Commonwealth.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Kings 12:7". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/1-kings-12.html. 1905-1909. New York.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And they spake unto him, saying,.... They gave their advice as follows:

if thou wilt be servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them; condescend to them, behave in an humble manner towards them, for this day however, and gratify and oblige them; though indeed a king is but a servant to his people, and his administration of government a doing service to them; hence AntigonusF6Apud Aelian. Var. Hist. l. 2. c. 20. , a king, mild, humble, and gentle, perceiving his son to behave in a fierce and violent manner towards his subjects, said to him, my son, dost thou not know that our glorious kingdom is a servitude?

and answer them, and speak good words unto them; give them a soft answer, and speak kindly and gently to them, and make them fair promises, and give them reason to expect that their requests will be granted:

then they will be thy servants for ever; such conduct would so win upon them, and make such an impressions upon them, that they would for ever after entertain high opinion of him, and be strongly affected and attached to him, and readily serve 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 12:7". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/1-kings-12.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a b 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.

(b) They showed him that there was no way to win the people's hearts but to grant them their just petition.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/1-kings-12.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "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 12:7 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.

Ver. 7. If thou wilt be a servant to this people this day.] Lenity and moderation in a prince is very prevalent with the people, as to win their affections at first, so to hold them in obedience ever after. The advice of an ancient French counseller to his sovereign at his departure from court, hath been elsewhere related. Being wished to lay down some general rules for government, he took a paper, and wrote on the top of it ‘moderation,’ in the middle of the leaf ‘moderation,’ and at the bottom ‘moderation.’

Then they will serve thee for ever.] Thou mayest afterwards use them at thy pleasure. Thus these politicians, according to that of the poet,

Nil pudet assuetos sceptris.

England was once called the Pope’s ass; and his officer John Florentinus was nicknamed Ferentinus for bearing away so much money from the English, of whom he received no less sums of curses than of coin, saith the chronicler. (a)

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/1-kings-12.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, by complying with their desires, and condescending to them for a season, till the troubled humours be quieted, and the opportunity they now have, and that some of them seek, for sedition be gone, and thou be better stablished in thy throne. They use this expression, as foreseeing that some would dissuade him from this course, as servile or slavish, and below the majesty of a prince.

And answer them, for that is, answer them. Thy service, say they, is not hard; it is only a few good words, which it is as easy to give as bad ones.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". 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

7.Be a servant unto this people this day — The ruler that would hold the affections of his people must first learn to be their servant. He must consult their wishes and interests so as not to seem unmindful of his most humble subject. But it is easy to see, as Bahr remarks, that such a proposition might not be very agreeable to a rash and imperious young king, in whose veins Ammonite blood flowed.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/1-kings-12.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

They said. Hebrew, "he said." The transcribers, probably not understanding what they wrote, frequently make singular for plural verbs. So ver. 21, "They came," instead of he came. Some manuscripts and the ancient versions are correct. (Kennicott) --- Yield. Hebrew, "serve." By the submission of one day he might have acquired the kingdom. Great attention is requisite at first. Tacitus (Hist. iv.) represents Vespasian, Novo principatu suspensum, & vultus quoque ac sermones omnium circumspectantem.

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Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/1-kings-12.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

for ever. Hebrew all the days: i.e. always.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/1-kings-12.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(7) If thou wilt be a servant.—Both the policies suggested show how corrupt and cynical the government of Israel had become. For the advice of the old counsellors has no largeness of policy or depth of wisdom. It is simply the characteristic advice of experienced and crafty politicians—who had seen the gradual development of despotic power, and had still remembrance of the comparative freedom of earlier days—understanding at once the dangerous vehemence of popular excitement, and the facility with which it may be satisfied by temporary concessions, and perhaps desiring to defeat that private ambition, which was making use for its own purposes of the natural sense of grievance. It is to give “good words,” and to be for the moment “a servant to the people,” with, perhaps, the intention of abolishing certain excessive grievances, but by no means of yielding up substantial power. Whether it was in itself more than superficially prudent, would depend on the seriousness of the grievances, and the social and political condition of the people.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/1-kings-12.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
If thou wilt
2 Chronicles 10:6,7; Proverbs 15:1; Mark 10:43,44; Philippians 2:7-11
speak good
13; 2 Samuel 15:3-6; Ecclesiastes 10:4; Zechariah 1:13
Reciprocal: Exodus 21:6 - for ever;  1 Chronicles 13:2 - If it seem

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12:7". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/1-kings-12.html.