1 Kings 12

CHAPTER XII

The people go to Shechem to make Rehoboam king, and send for

Jeroboam out of Egypt, who with the heads of the tribes,

requests relief from the heavy burdens laid on them by Solomon,

14.

He requires three days to consider their petition, 5.

He rejects the counsel of the elders, who served his father,

and follows that of young men, and returns the people a

provoking answer, 6-15.

The people therefore renounce the family of David, stone to

death Adoram, who came to receive their tribute, and make

Jeroboam king; none cleaving to Rehoboam but the tribes of

Judah and Benjamin, 16-20.

Rehoboam comes to Jerusalem, and assembles all the fighting men

of Judah and Benjamin, and finds the number to be one hundred

and eighty thousand; and with these he purposes to reduce the

men of Israel to his allegiance, but is forbidden by the

Prophet Shemaiah, 21-24.

Jeroboam builds Shechem in Mount Ephraim and Penuel, 25.

And lest the people should be drawn away from their allegiance

to him by going up to Jerusalem to worship, he makes two golden

calves, and sets them up, one in Dan, the other in Beth-el, and

the people worship them, 26-30.

He makes priests of the lowest of the people, and establishes

the fifteenth day of the eighth month as a feast to his new

gods; makes offerings, and burns incense, 31-33.

NOTES ON CHAP. XII

Verse 1. Rehoboam went to Shechem] Rehoboam was probably the

only son of Solomon; for although he had a thousand wives, he had

not the blessing of a numerous offspring; and although he was the

wisest of men himself, his son was a poor, unprincipled fool. Had

Solomon kept himself within reasonable bounds in matrimonial

affairs, he would probably have had more children; and such as

would have had common sense enough to discern the delicacy of

their situation, and rule according to reason and religion.

Verse 4. 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.

Verse 7. 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, honour and obey him. Happy are the people who have such a

king; safe is the king who has such a people.

Verse 10. And the young men that were grown up with him] It was

a custom in different countries to educate with the heir to the

throne young noblemen of nearly the same age. This, as Calmet

observes, answered two great and important ends:-1. It excited the

prince to emulation; that he might, as far as possible, surpass in

all manly exercises, and in all acts of prudence and virtue, those

whom one day he was to surpass in the elevation and dignity of his

station. 2. That he might acquire a correct knowledge of the

disposition and views of those who were likely to be, under him,

the highest officers of the state; and consequently, know the

better how to trust and employ them. The old counsellors Rehoboam

did not know; with the young nobility he had been familiar.

My little finger shall be thicker] A proverbial mode of

expression: "My little finger is thicker than my father's thigh."

As much as the thigh surpasses the little finger in thickness, so

much does my power exceed that of my father; and the use that I

shall make of it, to employ and tax you, shall be in proportion.

Verse 11. Chastise you with scorpions] Should you rebel, or

become disaffected, my father's whip shall be a scorpion in my

hand. His was chastisement, mine shall be punishment. St. Isidore,

and after him Calmet and others, assert that the scorpion was a

sort of severe whip, the lashes of which were armed with iron

points, that sunk into and tore the flesh. We know that the

scorpion was a military engine among the Romans for shooting

arrows, which, being poisoned, were likened to the scorpion's

sting, and the wound it inflicted.

Verse 15. The cause was from the Lord] God left him to himself,

and did not incline his heart to follow the counsel of the wise

men. This is making the best of our present version; but if we

come to inquire into the meaning of the CAUSE of all this

confusion and anarchy, we shall find it was Rehoboam's folly,

cruelty, and despotic tyranny: and was this from the Lord? But

does the text speak this bad doctrine? No: it says sibbah, the

REVOLUTION, was from the Lord. This is consistent with all the

declarations which went before. God stirred up the people to

revolt from a man who had neither skill nor humanity to govern

them. We had such a revolution in these nations in 1688; and,

thank God, we have never since needed another. None of our ancient

translations understood the word as our present version does: they

have it either the TURNING AWAY was from the Lord, or it was the

Lord's ORDINANCE; viz., that they should turn away from this

foolish king.

Verse 16. So Israel departed unto their tents] That is, the ten

tribes withdrew their allegiance from Rehoboam; only Judah and

Benjamin, frequently reckoned one tribe, remaining with him.

Verse 18. King Rehoboam sent Adoram] As this was the person who

was superintendent over the tribute, he was probably sent to

collect the ordinary taxes; but the people, indignant at the

master who had given them such a brutish answer, stoned the

servant to death. The sending of Adoram to collect the taxes,

when the public mind was in such a state of fermentation, was

another proof of Rehoboam's folly and incapacity to govern.

Verse 20. Made him king over all Israel] What is called Israel

here, was ten-twelfths of the whole nation; and had they a right

to call another person to the throne? They had not,-they had

neither legal nor constitutional right. Jeroboam was not of the

blood royal; he had no affinity to the kingdom. Nothing could

justify this act, but the just judgment of God. God thus punished

a disobedient and gainsaying people; and especially Solomon's

family, whose sins against the Lord were of no ordinary magnitude.

Verse 24. For this thing is from me.] That is, the separation of

the ten tribes from the house of David.

They-returned to depart] This was great deference, both in

Rehoboam and his officers, to relinquish, at the demand of the

prophet, a war which they thought they had good grounds to

undertake. The remnant of the people heard the Divine command

gratefully, for the mass of mankind are averse from war. No

nations would ever rise up against each other, were they not

instigated to it or compelled by the rulers.

Verse 27. And they shall kill me] He found he had little cause

to trust this fickle people; though they had declared for him it

was more from caprice, desire of change, and novelty, than from

any regular and praiseworthy principle.

Verse 28. Made two calves of gold] He invented a political

religion, instituted feasts in his own times different from those

appointed by the Lord, gave the people certain objects of

devotion, and pretended to think it would be both inconvenient and

oppressive to them to have to go up to Jerusalem to worship. This

was not the last time that religion was made a state engine to

serve political purposes. It is strange that in pointing out his

calves to the people, he should use the same words that Aaron used

when he made the golden calf in the wilderness, when they must

have heard what terrible judgments fell upon their forefathers for

this idolatry.

Verse 29. One in Beth-el, and the other-in Dan.] One at the

southern and the other at the northern extremity of the land.

Solomon's idolatry had prepared the people for Jeroboam's

abominations!

Verse 31. A house of high places] A temple of temples; he had

many high places in the land, and to imitate the temple at

Jerusalem, he made one chief over all the rest, where he

established a priesthood of his own ordination. Probably a place

of separate appointment, where different idols were set up and

worshipped; so it was a sort of pantheon.

Made priests of the lowest of the people] He took the people

indifferently as they came, and made them priests, till he had

enough, without troubling himself whether they were of the family

of Aaron or the house of Levi, or not. Any priests would do well

enough for such gods. But those whom he took seem to have been

worthless, good-for-nothing fellows, who had neither piety nor

good sense. Probably the sons of Levi had grace enough to refuse

to sanction this new priesthood and idolatrous worship.

Verse 32. Ordained a feast] The Jews held their feast of

tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month; Jeroboam,

who would meet the prejudices of the people as far as he could,

appointed a similar feast on the fifteenth of the eighth month;

thus appearing to hold the thing while he subverted the ordinance.

Verse 33. He offered upon the altar] Jeroboam probably performed

the functions of high priest himself, that he might in his own

person condense the civil and ecclesiastical power.

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