1 Kings 11:26
And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon's servant, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king.
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(26) Jeroboam the son of Nebat.—The life and character of Jeroboam are given in considerable detail in the history; and it is also remarkable that in some of the MSS. of the LXX. we find inserted after 1Kings 12:24 an independent account of his early history (see Note at the end of the chapter), generally of inferior authority, and having several suspicious features, but perhaps preserving some genuine details. As the great rebel against the House of David, the leader of the revolution which divided Israel and destroyed its greatness, the introducer of the idolatry of the temples of Dan and Bethel, and the corrupter of the worship of Jehovah in deference to an astute worldly policy, he stands out in a vividness of portraiture unapproached, till we come to the history of Ahab at the close of the book.

An Ephrathite of Zereda.—The word “Ephrathite,” which mostly means an inhabitant of Ephrata or Bethlehem, is here (as in 1Samuel 1:1) simply another form of the name Ephraimite. Zereda is mostly supposed to be Zarthan (see 7:46 and 2Chronicles 4:17), a town of Ephraim in the Jordan valley. The Vatican MS. of the LXX., by a slight change in the Hebrew, reads Sarira, which is probably a rendering of Zererah or Zererath (Judges 7:22), and, in the additional record noticed above, makes it a strong fortified place in Mount Ephraim.

The son of a widow woman.—This phrase, added to the phrase “Solomon’s servant,” is evidently designed to mark the utterly dependent condition from which Solomon’s favour raised the future rebel.

1 Kings


1 Kings 11:26 - 1 Kings 11:43

Solomon falls into the background in the last part of the story of his reign, and his enemies are more prominent than himself. So long as he walked with God, he was of importance for the historian; but as soon as he forsook God, and was consequently forsaken of His wisdom, he becomes as insignificant as an empty vessel which has once held sweet perfume, or a piece of carbon through which the electric current has ceased to flow. The sunbeam has left that peak, and shines on other summits. Never was there a sadder eclipse.

We are here told first how the instrument for shattering Solomon’s kingdom was shaped by himself. It is the old story of a young man of mark, attracting the eyes of the king, being promoted to offices of trust, which at once stir ambition, and give prominence and influence which seem to afford a possibility of gratifying it. The passion for building, so common in Eastern kings, and the cause of so much misery to their subjects, had grown on Solomon; and as his later days were harassed by war, and he had lost the safe defence of God’s arm, Jerusalem had to be enclosed by a wall. His father had been able to leave a ‘breach’ because the Lord was a wall round him and his city; and if Solomon had kept in his paths, he would have had no need to add to the fortifications. The preservation of ancestral piety is for nations and individuals a surer protection than the improvement of ancestral outward defences. Jeroboam made himself conspicuous by his energy {for that rather than ‘valour’ must be the meaning of the word}, and so got promotion. It was natural, but at the same time dangerous, to put him in command of the forced labour of his own tribe, as the narrative shows us was done; for ‘the house of Joseph’ is the tribe of Ephraim, to which, according to the correct translation of 1 Kings 11:26, he belonged. In such an office he would be thrown among his kinsmen, and would at once gain influence and learn to sympathise with their discontent, or, at any rate, to know where the sore places were, if he ever wanted to inflame them. One can easily fancy the grumblings of the Ephraimites dragged up to Jerusalem to the hated labour, which Samuel had predicted {1 Samuel 8:16}, and how facile it would be for the officer in charge to fan discontent or to win friends by judicious indulgence. How long this went on we do not know, but the fire had smouldered for some time under the unconscious king’s very eyes, when it was fanned into a flame by Ahijah’s breath.

That is the second stage in the story,-the spark on the tinder. We have heard nothing of prophets during Solomon’s reign; but now this man from Shiloh, the ancient seat of the Tabernacle, meets the ambitious young officer in some solitary spot, with the message which answered to his secret thoughts and made his heart beat fast. The symbolic action preceding the spoken word, as usual, supplied the text, of which the word was the explanation and expansion. How pathetic is the newness of the garment! Unworn, strong, and fresh, it yet is rent in pieces. So the kingdom is so recent, with such possibilities of duration, and yet it must be shattered! Thus quickly has the experiment broken down! It is little more than a century since Saul’s anointing, little more than seventy years since the choice of David, and already the fabric, which had such fair promise of perpetuity, is ready to vanish away. If we may say so, that ‘new garment’ represents the divine disappointment and sorrow over the swift corruption of the kingdom. It was probably merely some loose square of cloth which Ahijah tore, with violence proportioned to its newness, into twelve pieces, ten of which he thrust into the astonished Jeroboam’s hands. The commentary followed.

Ahijah’s prophecy is substantially the same as the previous threatenings to Solomon, which had done no good. Their incipient fulfilment in the wars with Edom and Syria had been equally futile; and therefore God, who never strikes without warning, and never warns without striking if men do not heed, now drops the message into ears that were only too ready to hear. The seed fell on prepared soil, and Jeroboam’s half-formed plans would be consolidated and fixed. The scene is like that in which the witches foretell to Macbeth his dignity. Slumbering ambitions are stirred, and a half-inclined will is finally determined by the glimpse into the future. How easily men are persuaded that God speaks, and how willing they are to obey, when their inclinations jump with Heaven’s commandments! The prophet’s message makes the separation of the kingdoms a direct divine act, and yet it was the breaking up of a divine institution. God’s dealings have to be shaped according to facts, and He changes His methods, and lets the feebleness of His creatures and their sins mould His august procedure. The divine Potter, like mere human artisans, has His spoiled pieces of work, and, with infinite resource and patience as infinite, re-shapes the clay into other forms. The separation of the kingdoms was a divine act, and yet it is treated often in the later books as a crime and rebellion. God works out His purposes through men’s deeds, and their motives determine whether their acts are sins or obedience. A man may be a rebel while he is doing the will of God, if what he does be done at the bidding of his own selfishness. The separation of the kingdoms was God’s doing, but it was brought about by the free action of men obeying most secular impulses of political discontent, and led by a cunning, self-seeking schemer.

Note that the prophecy is in three parts. First, 1 Kings 11:31 - 1 Kings 11:33 announce the punishment, with the reservation of a dwindled dominion to the Davidic house, for the sake of their great ancestor and of God’s choice of Jerusalem, and solemnly charge on the people the idolatry which the king had introduced. The second part {1 Kings 11:34 - 1 Kings 11:36} postpones the execution of the sentence till after Solomon’s death, and assigns the same two reasons for this further forbearance. The third part {1 Kings 11:37 - 1 Kings 11:39} promises Jeroboam the kingdom, and lays down the conditions on which the favours promised to David and his house may be his. The whole closes with the assurance that the affliction of the seed of David is not to be for ever.

The punishment was heavy; for the disruption of the kingdom meant the wreck of all the prosperity of Solomon’s earlier days, the hopeless weakness of the divided tribes as against the formidable powers that pressed in on them from north and south, frequent intestine wars, bitter hatred instead of amity. Yet there was another side to it; for the very failure of the human kings made the Messianic hope the more bright, like a light glowing in the deepening darkness, and tumult and oppression might teach those whom prosperity and peace had only corrupted. The great lesson for us is the ruin which follows on departure from God. We do not see national sins followed with equal plainness or swiftness by national judgments; but the history of Israel is meant to show on a large scale what is always true, in the long run, both for nations and for individuals, that ‘it is an evil thing and a bitter’ to depart from the living God.

Mark, too, that the judgment is wrought out by perfectly natural causes. The separation follows old lines of cleavage. The strength of David’s kingdom lay in the south; and Ephraim was too powerful a tribe and too proud of its ancient glories, to acquiesce cheerfully in the pre-eminence of Judah. The oppression of forced labour and heavy taxation was put forward as the reason for the revolt, and, no doubt, was the reason for the readiness with which the ten tribes rallied to Jeroboam’s flag. There are two ways of writing history. You can either leave God out, or trace all to Him. The former way calls itself ‘scientific’ and ‘positive.’ The latter is the Bible way. Perhaps, if modern history were written on the same principles as the Books of Kings, the divine hand would be as plainly visible,-only it requires an inspired historian to do it. The way of bringing about the judgment for departing from God has changed, but the judgment remains the same to-day as when Ahijah rent his garment.

Between 1 Kings 11:39 - 1 Kings 11:40 we must suppose an attempt at armed rebellion by Jeroboam. That is implied by the expression that he ‘lifted his hand against the king’ {1 Kings 11:26 - 1 Kings 11:27}. That attempt must have been put down by Solomon. And that it should have been made shows how little Jeroboam was influenced by religious motives. The prophet’s words had set him all afire with ambitious hopes, and he paid no heed to the distinct assurance that Solomon was to be ‘prince all the days of his life.’ He stretched out a rash, self-willed hand to snatch the promised crown, and broke God’s commandment even while he pretended to be keeping it. How different David’s conduct in like circumstances! He took no steps to bring about the fulfilment of Samuel’s promise at his anointing, but patiently waited for God to do as He had said, in His own time, and meantime continued his lowly work. God’s time is the best time; and he who greedily grasps at a premature fulfilment of promised good will have to pay for it by defeat and exile from the modest good that he had.

Jeroboam’s flight to Egypt brings that ill-omened name on the page for the first time since the Exodus. It has given occasion to an extraordinary addition to the Septuagint, professing to tell his adventures there,-how he was high in Shishak’s favour, and married a princess. That is apparently pure legend; but his residence there was important, as the beginning of Egypt’s interference in Israel’s affairs. It is an old trick of aggressive nations to side with a pretender to the throne of a country which they covet, and benevolently to strengthen him that he may weaken it. No doubt it was as Jeroboam’s ally that Shishak invaded Judah in the fifth year of Rehoboam, and plundered the Temple and the palace. It was a bad beginning for a king of Israel to be a pensioner of Egypt.

The narrative closes with the sad, reticent formula which ends each reign, and in Solomon’s case hides so much that is tragic and dark. This was all that could be said about the end of a career that had begun so nobly. If more had been said, the record would have been sadder; and so the pitying narrative casts the veil of the stereotyped summary over the miserable story. There are many instances in history of lives of genius and enthusiasm, of high promise and partial accomplishment, marred and flung away, but none which present the great tragedy of wasted gifts, and blossoms never fruited, in a sharper, more striking form than the life of the wise king of Israel, who ‘in his latter days’ was ‘a fool.’ The goodliest vessel may be shipwrecked in sight of port. Solomon was not an old man, as we count age, when he died; for he reigned forty years, and was somewhere about twenty when he became king. But it was ‘when he was old’ that he fell, and that through passion which should have been well under control long before. The sun went down in a thick bank of clouds, which rose from undrained marshes in his soul, and stretched high up in the western horizon. His career, in its glory and its shame, preaches the great lesson which the Book of Ecclesiastes puts into his mouth as ‘the conclusion of the whole matter’: ‘Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.’

1 Kings 11:26-28. Even he lifted up his hand against the king — Probably made some secret attempts to raise a dissatisfaction against Solomon; for we do not read of any open attempt. And this was the cause, &c. — This was the occasion of Jeroboam’s advancement, as it follows in the next verse. Solomon built Millo, &c. — Solomon, being engaged in many buildings, made choice of such as he judged were fit persons to oversee his works; among whom Jeroboam was one. A mighty man of valour — Of great courage and strength of body. Solomon seeing — that he was industrious — Very diligent in the business wherein he had employed him, of overlooking his works. He made him ruler, &c. — Set him over those of the tribe of Benjamin who were employed in carrying stones, &c., for Solomon’s buildings; or over the taxes and tributes which were to be collected of the house of Joseph, that is, of Ephraim and Manasseh, or of Ephraim only, termed here, as often elsewhere, the house of Joseph.

11:26-40 In telling the reason why God rent the kingdom from the house of Solomon, Ahijah warned Jeroboam to take heed of sinning away his preferment. Yet the house of David must be supported; out of it the Messiah would arise. Solomon sought to kill his successor. Had not he taught others, that whatever devices are in men's hearts, the counsel of the Lord shall stand? Yet he himself thinks to defeat that counsel. Jeroboam withdrew into Egypt, and was content to live in exile and obscurity for awhile, being sure of a kingdom at last. Shall not we be content, who have a better kingdom in reserve?Zereda - See Judges 7:22.

Lifted up his hand against the king - i. e., "he rebelled." Compare marginal reference.

26-40. Jeroboam—This was an internal enemy of a still more formidable character. He was a young man of talent and energy, who, having been appointed by Solomon superintendent of the engineering works projected around Jerusalem, had risen into public notice, and on being informed by a very significant act of the prophet Ahijah of the royal destiny which, by divine appointment, awaited him, his mind took a new turn. i.e. Rebelled against the king; not now and immediately in the person of Solomon himself, but in his son and successor, Rehoboam.

And Jeroboam the son of Nebat,.... According to some Jewish writers (r), this was Sheba the son of Bichri; but, as Kimchi observes, he was of the tribe of Benjamin, this of Ephraim; and besides, his head was cut off, and thrown over the wall to Joab, 2 Samuel 20:1,

an Ephrathite of Zereda; some where in the tribe of Ephraim, but nowhere else mentioned. There was a famous Jewish doctor, before the times of Christ, of this place, as it seems, who was called Jose ben Joezer, a man of Zereda (s):

Solomon's servant; not only his subject, but one that had been advanced by him to an office, and served under him, 1 Kings 11:28,

whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman; who very probably was supported by this her son, an industrious and ingenious man:

even he lifted up his hand against the king; either against Solomon, by reproaching and reproving him for some things he did; or rather against Rehoboam his son, which was very ungrateful.

(r) Shalshalet Hakabala, p. 11. (s) Pirke Abot, c. 1. sect. 4.

And Jeroboam the son of Nebat, an Ephrathite of Zereda, Solomon's servant, whose mother's name was Zeruah, a widow woman, even he lifted up his hand against the king.
26–40. Rise of Jeroboam’s hostility to Solomon. Ahijah’s prophetic action and message (Not in Chronicles)

26. Jeroboam the son of Nebat] This is the first mention of him who afterwards is so frequently spoken of as the man ‘who made Israel to sin.’ We know nothing more of his parentage than is told us in this verse. His after life comes before us frequently in the succeeding chapters.

an Ephrathite] Better with R.V. an Ephraimite. The word Ephrathite would mean one born at Ephratah, i.e. Bethlehem. This cannot be true of Jeroboam, from the words of the verse before us. A similar change is needed in the A.V. of 1 Samuel 1:1 where Elkanah, though described as ‘a man of the hill country of Ephraim’ is yet subsequently called an ‘Ephrathite.’

of Zereda] The Hebrew spelling requires Zeredah (as R.V.). This place must have been near or in the hill country of Ephraim. It has been thought by some to be the same as Zeredathah, which is given in 2 Chronicles 4:17 instead of Zarthan of 1 Kings 7:46, the place near which the castings of brass were made for Solomon s Temple. The LXX. (Vat.) gives Σαριρὰ as the name, and in a long addition which that version contains after 1 Kings 11:24 of the next chapter Σαριρὰ occurs several times over. It is also given by the LXX. of 1 Kings 14:17 instead of Tirzah, where Jeroboam had his royal residence. That the Greek translators identified this place with some town of great importance will be seen from the note on 1 Kings 12:24 below, but whether their identification can be trusted is somewhat doubtful.

Solomon’s servant] i.e. One who had been employed by Solomon. The works were not necessarily unimportant, on which such servants were employed. But it makes the term a little more significant if (with R.V.) we render a servant of Solomon.

he lift up his hand against] A phrase indicative of rebellion and very expressive here. For Jeroboam was one of Solomon’s own people, whose hand might be expected to be with him, and not against him. Josephus marks the difference between this adversary and those previously named, when he calls Jeroboam τῶν ὁμοφύλων τίς.

Verse 26. - And Jeroboam [Viewed in the light of their history, the names Jeroboam and Rehoboam are both instructive. The first means, "Whose people are many;" the second, "Enlarger of the people." The latter might almost have been bestowed in irony, the former by way of parody] the son of Nebat [The case of Jeroboam is now related at much greater length, not so much because of the importance of the rebellion at the time, as because of its bearing on the later history of Israel. It led to the disruption of the kingdom and the schism in the Church. It was the first great symptom of the decadence of the power of Solomon; of his decline in piety we have had many indications. We see in it an indication that the Hebrew commonwealth has passed its zenith], an Ephrathite [i.e., Ephraimite; cf. Judges 12:5; 1 Samuel 1:1. Ephraim was the ancient rival of Judah, and by reason of its numbers, position, etc., might well aspire to the headship of the tribes (Genesis 49:26; Genesis 48:19; Deuteronomy 33:17; Joshua 17:17) ] of Zereda [Mentioned here only, unless it is identical with Zeredathah (2 Chronicles 4:17) or Zarthan (Joshua 3:16; 1 Kings 4:12) in the Jordan valley. That this place was apparently situate in the tribe of Manasseh, is no argument against the identification (Bahr), for an Ephrathite might surely be born out of Ephraim. It is, however, observable that Zereda has the definite article (similarly ἡ Σαρείρα ιν the LXX., but this place is located in Mount Ephraim), which Zarthan, etc., have not. Hence it is probably the same as the Zererath of Judges 7:22. In fact, some MSS. read צְרֵדָה there instead of צְרֵרָה and ר and ד are not only etymologically interchangeable, but are also extremely liable to be confused (see above on ver. 14) ], Solomon's servant [i.e., officer; cf. ver. 28], whose mother's name was Zeruah [i.e., leprous. His mother's name is recorded, probably because his father, having died early, was comparatively unknown. But it is not impossible that the similarity either with Zeruiah (cf. 1 Kings 1:7) or Zererah had something to do with its preservation. The people would not readily forget that Solomon's other great adversary was the son of Zeruiah. And we have many proofs how much the Jews affected the jingle of similar words], even he lifted up his [Heb. a] hand [i.e., rebelled. Synonymous expression 2 Samuel 18:28; 2 Samuel 20:21. Observe, we have no history or account of this rebellion except in the LXX., but merely of the circumstances which led to it] against the king. 1 Kings 11:26Attempted rebellion of Jeroboam the Ephraimite. - Hadad and Rezon are simply described as adversaries (שׂטן) of Solomon; but in the case of Jeroboam it is stated that "he lifted up his hand against the king," i.e., he stirred up a tumult or rebellion. בּ יד נשׂא is synonymous with בּ יד נשׂא in 2 Samuel 18:28; 2 Samuel 20:21. It is not on account of this rebellion, which was quickly suppressed by Solomon, but on account of the later enterprise of Jeroboam, that his personal history is so minutely detailed. Jeroboam was an Ephraimite (אפרתי, as in 1 Samuel 1:1; Judges 12:5) of Zereda, i.e., Zarthan, in the Jordan valley (see 1 Kings 7:46), son of a widow, and עבד, i.e., not a subject (Then.), but an officer, of Solomon. All that is related of his rebellion against the king is the circumstances under which it took place. אשׁר הדּבר יד, this is how it stands with, as in Joshua 5:4. Solomon built Millo (1 Kings 9:15), and closed the rent (the defile?) in the city of David. פּרץ, ruptura, cannot be a rent or breach in the wall of the city of David, inasmuch as חומה is not added, and since the fortification of the city by David (2 Samuel 5:9) no hostile attack had ever been made upon Jerusalem; but in all probability it denotes the ravine which separated Zion from Moriah and Ophel, the future Tyropoeon, through the closing of which the temple mountain was brought within the city wall, and the fortification of the city of David was completed (Thenius, Ewald, Gesch. iii. p. 330). Compare מפרץ, a gap in the coast, a bay. On the occasion of this building, Jeroboam proved himself a חיל גּבּור, i.e., a very able and energetic man; so that when Solomon saw the young man, that he was doing work, i.e., urging it forward, he committed to him the oversight over all the heavy work of the house of Joseph. It must have been while occupying this post that he attempted a rebellion against Solomon. This is indicated by וגו הדּבר יד in v. 27. According to 1 Kings 12:4, the reason for the rebellion is to be sought for in the appointment of the Ephraimites to heavy works. This awakened afresh the old antipathy of that tribe to Judah, and Jeroboam availed himself of this to instigate a rebellion.
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