1 Kings 14:23
For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(23) High places, and images, and groves.—On the “high places,” see 1Kings 3:2, and Note there. The “images” of this passage seem undoubtedly to have been stone pillars, as the “groves” (i.e., the asherahs) were wooden stumps of trees (possibly in both cases surmounted by some rude representation of the deity worshipped). The first mention of such a pillar is in Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:14, there applied to the stone which Jacob raises and anoints, in order to mark the scene of the vision at Bethel; next, we find repeated commands to destroy them (with the asherahs also) as erected by the Canaanites (Exodus 23:24; Exodus 34:13; Leviticus 26:1; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3), and to suffer neither near the altar of the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:21). Like the high places, it seems plain that both might be either unauthorised emblems of God’s presence or images of false gods; and, indeed, the stone pillar appears in some cases to be associated with the worship of Baal, as the Asherah with that of Ashtoreth. In this passage, from the strength of the language used, and from the notice in 1Kings 14:24, it seems that the grosser idolatry is referred to. It was practised “on every high hill, and every shady tree”—such trees as were notable for size and shade in the bareness of the hills of Palestine.

14:21-31 Here is no good said of Rehoboam, and much said to the disadvantage of his subjects. The abounding of the worst crimes, of the worst of the heathen, in Jerusalem, the city the Lord had chosen for his temple and his worship, shows that nothing can mend the hearts of fallen men but the sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit. On this alone may we depend; for this let us daily pray, in behalf of ourselves and all around us. The splendour of their temple, the pomp of their priesthood, and all the advantages with which their religion was attended, could not prevail to keep them close to it; nothing less than the pouring out the Spirit will keep God's Israel in their allegiance to him. Sin exposes, makes poor, and weakens any people. Shishak, king of Egypt, came and took away the treasures. Sin makes the gold become dim, changes the most fine gold, and turns it into brass.The words "they also" are emphatic. Not only did the Israelites make themselves high places 1 Kings 12:31; 1 Kings 13:32, but the people of Judah also. The "high places," which are said to have been "built," were probably small shrines or tabernacles hung with bright-colored tapestry Ezekiel 16:16, like the "sacred tent" of the Carthaginians.

The "images" were rather "pillars" (Genesis 28:18 note).

Groves - See 1 Kings 14:15, note. The "groves," it will be observed, were "built" on high hills and "under green trees."

Under every green tree - i. e., under all those remarkable trees which, standing singly about the land, were landmarks to their respective neighborhoods, and places of resort to travelers, who gladly rested under their shade Deuteronomy 12:2.

1Ki 14:21-24. Rehoboam's Wicked Reign.

21. he reigned … in Jerusalem—Its particular designation as "the city which the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there," seems given here, both as a reflection on the apostasy of the ten tribes, and as a proof of the aggravated wickedness of introducing idolatry and its attendant vices there.

his mother's name was Naamah an Ammonitess—Her heathen extraction and her influence as queen mother are stated to account for Rehoboam's tendency to depart from the true religion. Led by the warning of the prophet (1Ki 12:23), as well as by the large immigration of Israelites into his kingdom (1Ki 12:17; 2Ch 11:16), he continued for the first three years of his reign a faithful patron of true religion (2Ch 11:17). But afterwards he began and encouraged a general apostasy; idolatry became the prevailing form of worship, and the religious state of the kingdom in his reign is described by the high places, the idolatrous statues, the groves and impure rites that with unchecked license were observed in them. The description is suited to the character of the Canaanitish worship.

They also built them high places; they followed the example of the Israelites, although they were better instructed, and had the temple in their kingdom, and liberty of access to it, which was denied to the Israelites; and the privilege of worshipping God in his own way, and the counsels, and sermons, and examples of the priests and Levites to and stablish them, and the dreadful example of Israel’s horrid apostacy to caution and terrify them. The building of high places was unlawful, and now especially when the temple was built, and ready to receive them; unnecessary, and therefore expressed a greater contempt of God and his express command to the contrary.

Images and groves; not only after the manner of the heathens and Israelites, but against a direct and particular prohibition.

Under every green tree: the people were universally corrupted; which is a prodigious sin, all things considered, and is a clear evidence of the greatness and depth of the original corruption of man’s nature, which without God’s grace is ready to break forth into all sorts of wickedness. For they also built them high places,.... Which, though allowed of, or at least connived at, before the temple was built, and when the tabernacle was unfixed, yet afterwards unlawful; and the tribe of Judah could have no excuse for them, who had the temple in their tribe:

and images; contrary to the express command of God, Exodus 20:4,

and groves on every high hill, and under every green tree; that is, set up idols, and temples for idols, amidst groves of trees, and under all green trees; as was the custom of the Heathens, who sacrificed on the heights of hills and tops of mountains, as was particularly the custom of the Persians, as both Herodotus (m) and Xenophon (n) relate; and with the Getae, a people in Thrace, was a mountain they reckoned sacred (o).

(m) Clio, sive, l. 1. c. 131. (n) Cyropaedia, l. 8. c. 45. (o) Strabo Geograph. l. 7. p. 206.

For they also built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. high places] We read constantly of ‘houses’ of the high places, and it is to these erections on some lofty hills that the ‘building’ here spoken of applies. See above, 1 Kings 12:31.

images] The R.V. renders by pillars, with ‘obelisks’ in the margin. And this appears more correct than A. V. There is nothing in the word itself to denote an image. The root signifies ‘to set up,’ and this noun is applied to the stones which Jacob set up (Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:45; Genesis 35:14), and which Joshua set up (Joshua 4:9) when the people had passed over Jordan. Probably therefore the erections made in Judah were only large stones. The name is given also to the ‘obelisks’ which stood at the entrance of the Temple of the Sun in Heliopolis (Jeremiah 43:13).

and groves] R.V. Ashêrim. See above on 1 Kings 14:15.Verse 23. - For they also [i.e., they as well as the ten tribes] built them high places [i.e., houses of high places. See on 1 Kings 3:2 and 1 Kings 13:32] and images [Heb. pillars or statues (מַצֵּבות; LXX., στήλας). These were, no doubt, originally memorial pillars or stones, erected to commemorate some Divine manifestation, and with no thought of idolatry (see Genesis 31:13; Genesis 35:14, 20; Genesis 28:18). But the Canaanites erected pillars, which were also statues or images, to their god, Baal. Hence we read of the "image" (מַצֵּבָה) of Baal (2 Kings 3:2; 2 Kings 10:26, 27; cf. 18:4; 23. 14); and hence also we find such images frequently mentioned side by side with the so-called "groves," i.e., the "Asherahs" (ver. 15; Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3; Deuteronomy 16:21, etc.) Both the Mazzebah and the Asherah, consequently, was an upright pillar or post, but the former was of stone, the latter of wood; the former dedicated to Baal, the god of nature, of generation; the latter to Ashtoreth, the goddess of nature and productive power. The gradual transition of the memorial pillar into the Baal statue is hinted at in Leviticus 26:1. It is observable that these idolatrous and immoral rites seem to have found a home in Judah before they were introduced into Israel] and groves [Asherahs, idols; see on ver. 15. This verse proves conclusively that the translation "grove" is a mistaken one] on every high hill, and under every green tree. [The phrase is from the Pentateuch, Deuteronomy 12:2; cf. Jeremiah 2:20; Jeremiah 3:6; Hosea 4:13. "Probably the evil example of Maachah, his favourite wife (2 Chronicles 11:20-22), whose idolatrous tastes were displayed under Asa (2 Chronicles 15:16), was not without a pernicious effect on Rehoboam" (Wordsworth).] But in order that not only Jeroboam, but also the people who had joined in his idolatry, might perceive the severity of the divine judgment, Ahijah also announced to the nation its banishment into exile beyond the Euphrates. "Jehovah will smite Israel, as the reed shakes in the water," is an abbreviated phrase for: Jehovah will smite Israel in such a manner that it will sway to and fro like a reed in the water moved by a strong wind, which has not a sufficiently firm hold to resist the violence of the storm. "And will thrust them out of the good land," etc., as Moses threatened the transgressors of the law (Deuteronomy 29:27), "and scatter them beyond the river (Euphrates)," i.e., banish them among the heathen, from whom God brought out and chose their forefather (Joshua 24:3), "because they have made themselves Ashera-idols, to provoke Jehovah." אשׁרים is used for idols generally, among which the golden calves are reckoned. ויתּן, that He may deliver up Israel, on account of the idolatrous forms of worship introduced by Jeroboam. For the fulfilment see 2 Kings 15:29; 2 Kings 17:23, and 2 Kings 18:11. - In 1 Kings 14:17, 1 Kings 14:18 the exact fulfilment of Ahijah's announcement concerning the death of Jeroboam's sick son is described. According to 1 Kings 14:17, Jeroboam was then residing at Thirza, whereas he had at first resided at Shechem (1 Kings 12:25). Thirza is probably the present Talluza, on the north of Shechem (see at Joshua 12:24).
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