1 Kings 12:17
But as for the children of Israel which dwelled in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.
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(17) The children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah.—The expression is doubly significant. (a) Historically the tribe of Judah had its semi-dependent tribes—Simeon, already absorbed into Judah; Dan, in great part transferred to the extreme north; and Benjamin, closely united to Judah by the position of Jerusalem. All these, it would seem, are here included—so that the territory of the southern kingdom would be really the Judœa of later times. In addition to these, we find from 2Chronicles 11:13-16, that, at any rate after the idolatry of Jeroboam, priests and Levites and other Israelites made their way into the cities of Judah. (b) But, besides this, there may be a significance in the phrase “children of Israel.” Although the northern kingdom henceforth inherited the proud title of the kingdom of Israel, the phrase, as here used, is perhaps intended to remind the reader that in Judah also dwelt “children of Israel”—true descendants of the “Prince of God,” and inheritors of the promise.

12:16-24 The people speak unbecomingly of David. How soon are good men, and their good services to the public, forgotten ! These considerations should reconcile us to our losses and troubles, that God is the Author of them, and our brethren the instruments: let us not meditate revenge. Rehoboam and his people hearkened to the word of the Lord. When we know God's mind, we must submit, how much soever it crosses our own mind. If we secure the favour of God, not all the universe can hurt us.Israel ... - The Israelites proper, or members of the other tribes, who happened to be settled within the limits of the land of Judah. These Israelites quietly submitted to Rehoboam. "Israel" through this chapter, and throughout the rest of Kings, designates ordinarily "the ten tribes," and is antithetical to "Judah." 15-18. the king hearkened not unto the people, for the cause was from the Lord—That was the overruling cause. Rehoboam's weakness (Ec 2:18, 19) and inexperience in public affairs has given rise to the probable conjecture, that, like many other princes in the East, he had been kept secluded in the harem till the period of his accession (Ec 4:14), his father being either afraid of his aspiring to the sovereignty, like the two sons of David, or, which is more probable, afraid of prematurely exposing his imbecility. The king's haughty and violent answer to a people already filled with a spirit of discontent and exasperation, indicated so great an incapacity to appreciate the gravity of the crisis, so utter a want of common sense, as to create a belief that he was struck with judicial blindness. It was received with mingled scorn and derision. The revolt was accomplished, and yet so quietly, that Rehoboam remained in Shechem, fancying himself the sovereign of a united kingdom, until his chief tax gatherer, who had been most imprudently sent to treat with the people, had been stoned to death. This opened his eyes, and he fled for security to Jerusalem. Which dwelt in the cities of Judah; by which phrase he principally understands the tribe of Judah; but withal, those parts and parcels of the tribes of Levi, and Simeon, and Benjamin, whose dwellings were within the confines of Judah, or intermixed with them. But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah,.... Either such Israelites of the ten tribes that had before dwelt, or now upon this removed, for the sake of worship, to dwell in the tribe of Judah; or else that part of Israel, the tribe of Judah, which dwelt in the cities belonging to it:

Rehoboam reigned over them; they owned him to be their king, and submitted to his government.

But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.
17. the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah] We see from expressions like this that we must not necessarily make ‘Israel’ include only the northern tribes. See above on 1 Kings 12:1.

The LXX. omits this verse entirely.Verse 17. - But as for the children of Israel which dwelt In the cities of Judah [i.e., "the Israelites proper or members of other tribes, who happened to be settled within the limits of the land of Judah" (cf. ver. 23). A number of Simeonites were (Rawlinson) certainly among them (Joshua 19:1-9). The term "children of Israel" is henceforward to be understood in its restricted sense (see on ver. 1). It cannot include the men of Judah], Rehoboam reigned over them. But Rehoboam forsook this advice, and asked the younger ministers who had grown up with him. They advised him to overawe the people by harsh threats. "My little finger is stronger than my father's loins." קטי, from קטן, littleness, i.e., the little finger (for the form, see Ewald, 255, b.), - a figurative expression in the sense of, I possess much greater might than my father. "And now, my father laid a heavy yoke upon you, and I will still further add to your yoke (lay still more upon you): my father chastised you with whips, I will chastise you with scorpions." עקרבּים, scorpiones, are whips with barbed points like the point of a scorpion's sting.

(Note: The Rabbins give this explanation: virgae spinis instructae. Isidor. HisPal. Origg. v. c. 27, explains it in a similar manner: virga si est nodosa vel aculeata, scorpio vocatur. The Targ. and Syr., on the other hand, מרגגין, Syr. mārganā', i.e., the Greek μάραγνα, a whip. See the various explanations in Bochart, Hieroz. iii. p. 554f. ed. Ros.)

This advice was not only imprudent, "considering all the circumstances" (Seb. Schmidt), but it was unwise in itself, and could only accelerate the secession of the discontented. It was the language of a tyrant, and not of a ruler whom God had placed over His people. This is shown in 1 Kings 12:13, 1 Kings 12:14 : "The king answered the people harshly, and forsook the counsel of the old men," i.e., the counsellors who were rich in experience, and spoke according to the counsels of the young men, who flattered his ambition. It is very doubtful, indeed, whether the advice of the old men would have been followed by so favourable a result; it might probably have been so for the moment, but not for a permanency. For the king could not become the עגלים of the people, serve the people, without prejudicing the authority entrusted to him by God; though there is no doubt that if he had consented to such condescension, he would have deprived the discontented tribes of all pretext for rebellion, and not have shared in the sin of their secession.

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