1 Kings 12
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.
Ch. 1 Kings 12:1-15. Rehoboam’s accession. Request of his subjects and the king’s Answer (2 Chronicles 10:1-15)

1. And Rehoboam went to Shechem] The parallel passage in 2 Chronicles 11:1-15 is almost identical with what is given here. It is clear from the narrative that, though Rehoboam was acknowledged as the rightful successor to his father, there was a desire among the people to modify the character of the government. David had ruled as a conqueror, and the fame and wealth and great undertakings of Solomon had gratified the people and made them submit to many severities in his reign. Rehoboam had none of the recommendations of his father or grandfather, and the influential persons in the nation availed themselves of the solemn enthronization at Shechem to put forward their desires. It may well be that they had arranged for the ceremony to take place at a distance from Jerusalem, and in one of the principal towns of the north that their proposals might be strongly supported, and that the king might feel how important it was for him to conciliate such a party as they were. If Rehoboam had already been acknowledged as king in Jerusalem, the southern tribes would be less powerfully represented in this meeting at Shechem, and prestige of the grand buildings of Jerusalem and all the splendour which spake of Rehoboam’s house would be absent.

Shechem, first mentioned as Sichem in Genesis 12:6, was a city of considerable antiquity, in the hill country of Ephraim, and of such strength and importance that Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 12:25 below) fortified and strengthened it to be the royal city of the ten tribes, immediately after the revolt. Its name, which signifies shoulder or ridge, indicates its position among the hills, and Josephus tells us that it was between Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim. It has been identified with the modern Nablous (formerly Neapolis), and there seems no reason to question the identification.

for all Israel were come to Shechem] We have seen before that there was a distinction, even while the kingdom was all one, between ‘the men of Israel’ and ‘the men of Judah’ (see 2 Samuel 19:40-43). It seems not improbable that the arrangement for this gathering at Shechem was a sort of protest by the men of the north against the southern tribes who, because Jerusalem, with the temple and the royal dwellings, was in their part of the land, may have claimed to be the ruling portion of the nation. Hence a solemn ceremonial held elsewhere in connexion with the accession of the new king would be thought a good means of checking this assumption, even if there had been no further motive for the choice of Shechem. And Rehoboam was obliged to go there, if he would not at once provoke a civil war.

And it came to pass, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who was yet in Egypt, heard of it, (for he was fled from the presence of king Solomon, and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt;)
2. And it came to pass] The LXX. (Vat.) having given the substance of this verse as an addition to 1 Kings 11:43, omits it here. The R.V. makes the parenthesis commence a little earlier and extend a little farther than is shewn in A.V. The connexion thus becomes: And it came to pass when ‘Jeroboam … heard of it (for he was yet in Egypt whither he had fled … and they sent … him;) that Jeroboam’ &c.

heard of it] There must have been some interval between the death of Solomon and the gathering of the people at Shechem. The character and purpose of this meeting must also have been settled beforehand, so that news of what was intended could be carried to Jeroboam, and he, seeing events to be promising for his enterprise, could come back into Israel, and take the lead, as in the next verse he is said to have done, of those who petitioned the new king for reforms.

That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,
3. that they sent] Better, And they sent: see the previous note. Josephus (Ant. viii. 8, i) calls this party οἱ τῶν ὄχλων ἄρχοντες, and represents them as sending to Jeroboam immediately after Solomon was dead. Clearly there was a feeling that some change was at hand, and the knowledge of Ahijah’s prophecies had not been confined to Jeroboam and Solomon. Hence men were prepared for what was coming.

and called him] Knowing that he would be ready to come, and that his ability and industry (described 1 Kings 11:28 above) qualified him for a leader of their enterprise.

Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel] The LXX. (Vat.) omits Jeroboam. But the object of sending for him was clearly that he might be the prime mover in the agitation, and by taking part in the popular petition he would prepare the way for the invitation sent to him as mentioned below in 1 Kings 12:20.

Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.
4. make thou the grievous service … lighter] Josephus says they naturally expected to gain their request, and especially as the king was a young man. The house of Joseph, i.e. the Ephraimites, are specially mentioned as having been engaged in the compulsory labour (see 1 Kings 11:28) in the previous reign, and over these Jeroboam had been in charge, so that he was conversant with their grievances.

And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.
And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?
6. And king Rehoboam consulted] That the close similarity between the narrative here and 2 Chron. may be as apparent as possible to the English reader, the R.V. reads here as there, took counsel, and similarly in 1 Kings 12:8 ‘and took counsel with the young men.’ The change is of no importance to the sense, but where two passages are identical in the original they are with advantage represented so in the translation.

the old men] These persons must have been advanced in years, and perhaps were not in public office under Rehoboam. The age of Rehoboam on his accession was 41 years (1 Kings 14:21). (See, however, the note at the end of this chapter.) So though he and his favoured advisers are spoken of as ‘young,’ they were not so, except in comparison with Solomon’s counsellors.

How do you advise that I may answer] Here again in R.V. the translation is harmonized with 2 Chron. What counsel give ye me to return answer. Though this is certainly not so idiomatic as the English of Kings.

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.
7. If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day] Here the words of 2 Chron. are ‘If thou be kind to this people and please them.’ What was meant was that for the time the king should give way and obey the popular voice. This short service would win for him their constant allegiance. The LXX. does not represent ‘and answer them’ in this verse.

But he forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him, and which stood before him:
8. young men that were grown up with him] i.e. Who were about the same age. It is not needful to suppose that they had been educated with him from their youth up. They now being his contemporaries were chosen to ‘stand before him,’ to be his privy counsellors. This office the older men had held under Solomon (see 1 Kings 12:6).

And he said unto them, What counsel give ye that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, Make the yoke which thy father did put upon us lighter?
9. that we may answer] Better, ‘may return answer’ as the words are precisely those of 1 Kings 12:6. It is noteworthy that Rehoboam includes the young counsellors with himself and says ‘we’ when he speaks to them, but he employs the singular number ‘I’ in 1 Kings 12:6, when addressing the older men. He appears to have dispensed summarily with the services of his father’s advisers, and taken others into his confidence. One among several marks of folly which are to be found in the history of this business.

And the young men that were grown up with him spake unto him, saying, Thus shalt thou speak unto this people that spake unto thee, saying, Thy father made our yoke heavy, but make thou it lighter unto us; thus shalt thou say unto them, My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins.
10. my little finger shall be (R.V. is) thicker than my father’s loins] The italics of A.V. shew that the word ‘finger’ is explanatory, and not represented in the text. The LXX. gives ἡ μικρότης μου. There can however be no doubt that ‘my littleness’ is here correctly expounded by ‘my little finger,’ as the Vulgate, Josephus, the Syriac version and ancient Jewish commentators explain it.

And now whereas my father did lade you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke: my father hath chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
11. with whips] We have no record of such an act on the part of Solomon, and it may be the phrase is only metaphorical, to express a light degree of chastisement in comparison of what they might hereafter expect. But scourging men to urge them in compulsory labour is not unknown in despotic countries.

with scorpions] Most likely, if the words are to be taken literally, some sort of lash on which metal points were fixed so that each blow might wound like a scorpion’s sting.

So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.
12. So Jeroboam and all the people] The LXX. here, as in 1 Kings 12:3, omits ‘Jeroboam.’

as the king had appointed] R.V. has ‘as the king bade.’

And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;
And spake to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke: my father also chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.
Wherefore the king hearkened not unto the people; for the cause was from the LORD, that he might perform his saying, which the LORD spake by Ahijah the Shilonite unto Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
15. Wherefore the king] Better, as R.V., ‘So the king.’ The original has merely the ordinary copulative ו, and there is no giving of a reason implied, but the summing up of a narrative.

for the cause was from the Lord] R.V. for it was a thing brought about of the Lord. The Hebrew noun signifies ‘the turn of events’ and is represented in the LXX. by μεταστροφή. For a similar idea, compare the case of Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21). Also (Acts 2:23) ‘Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.’ Josephus says these events happened κατὰ τὴν τοῦ θεοῦ βούλησιν. The course of events had been shaped by Solomon’s transgression, and they were left by God to work out their natural results. The sin of the father was here visited on the child.

perform his saying] R.V. establish his word. This is the rendering of the same words in A.V. 1 Samuel 1:23, and ‘to establish’ or ‘confirm’ a word, is a more natural expression than ‘to perform’ it. For the word of Ahijah cf. above 1 Kings 11:31.

So when all Israel saw that the king hearkened not unto them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David? neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: to your tents, O Israel: now see to thine own house, David. So Israel departed unto their tents.
16–20. Revolt of the ten tribes (Cf. 2 Chronicles 10:16-19)

16. all Israel saw that the king hearkened not] Josephus says ‘they were struck by his words as by an iron rod and grieved as though the words of the king had been actually put into execution.’

What portion have we in David?] Very similar words were used (2 Samuel 20:1) by Sheba the Benjamite when he strove to rouse the people against David. The tribe of Judah was more closely connected with the house of Jesse, because his home was at Bethlehem.

To your tents, O Israel] i.e. Disperse to your homes, that you may take steps for protecting yourselves, and arranging for resistance to the threatened severity.

see to thine own house] As though the tribe to which he belonged was now all that would be left to him. The LXX. reads βόσκε τὸν οἷκόν σου, as though their text had been רעה =‘to feed’ and not as in the Massoretic text ראה=to see.

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.

Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was over the tribute; and all Israel stoned him with stones, that he died. Therefore king Rehoboam made speed to get him up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem.
18. Then king Rehoboam sent Adoram] The same man who is called Adoniram in ch. 1 Kings 4:6. He presided over the forced-labour service, and it was an additional sign of the infatuation of Rehoboam, that a person so likely to be obnoxious to the people should be sent as the king’s representative. Josephus tells us that Rehoboam’s design was to appease and mollify the irritation caused by his answer. He could hardly have found worse means for his end.

who was over the tribute] Read, with R.V. ‘over the levy.’ See above on 1 Kings 4:6.

and all Israel stoned him] The LXX. omits ‘all Israel.’

Therefore king Rehoboam made speed] The marginal rendering of A.V. points out the literal meaning of the verb in this clause ‘he strengthened himself.’ The idea is ‘he made use of every effort,’ ‘exerted himself much,’ seeing that there was danger threatening him as well as his messenger. It appears from this verse, that little time had elapsed between the answer of Rehoboam and the sending of Adoram to appease the irritated leaders. All this was done and Adoram killed before Rehoboam left Shechem. The haughty stern answer and the sudden change to a policy of a more lenient nature are alike marks of the weak character of the new king.

So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.
19. unto this day] This phrase occurring several times in the book marks the original composition, from which the compiler of the Kings drew his material, as written while the two kingdoms were still existent, and under different rulers.

And it came to pass, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again, that they sent and called him unto the congregation, and made him king over all Israel: there was none that followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.
20. when all Israel heard that Jeroboam was come again] R.V. was returned. This change is made because the words are like 2 Chronicles 10:2, and the two should be represented as agreeing. The movement described in these words is that of the whole ten tribes. At first Jeroboam had been summoned by the leading men that he might be their adviser and perhaps spokesman. Now when their request has been rejected the whole people agree that he shall be made their king.

but the tribe of Judah only] So Rehoboam was left in the position of David at his accession, king of Judah only. The LXX. adds here ‘and Benjamin’ to accord with the previous variations in 1 Kings 11:32; 1 Kings 11:36. See notes there.

And when Rehoboam was come to Jerusalem, he assembled all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin, an hundred and fourscore thousand chosen men, which were warriors, to fight against the house of Israel, to bring the kingdom again to Rehoboam the son of Solomon.
21–24. Rehoboam prepares to make war on Israel but this is forbidden by the Prophet Shemaiah (2 Chronicles 11:1-4)

21. all the house of Judah, with the tribe of Benjamin] Called in 2 Chron. ‘the house of Judah and Benjamin.’ Thus Benjamin is shewn to have been, as it were, reckoned with Judah rather than as a separate tribe.

an hundred and fourscore thousand] The LXX. gives the number as 120,000. Though apparently enormous, neither number is excessive when we recall Joab’s numbering (2 Samuel 24:9), at which time the men of Judah were found to be 500,000. But subsistence for so large a population must have been very difficult to find in so small a state.

But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,
22. the word of God] How Shemaiah and other prophets received their commission is not always explained. Sometimes it is said ‘the Lord sent’ (cf. 2 Samuel 12:1; 2 Samuel 12:25). The prompting by a vision in sleep is most frequently recorded, and this we may assume in other cases to have been the way in which God’s message came.

Shemaiah] Beside the present notice of him, Shemaiah is also mentioned at the time when Shishak, king of Egypt, invaded Judæa and besieged Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 12:5; 2 Chronicles 12:7). He then was sent with a message of comfort to the princes of Judah. In 2 Chronicles 12:15 he is said to have written a chronicle of the reign of Rehoboam.

Speak unto Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and unto all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the remnant of the people, saying,
23. and to the remnant of the people] (R.V. the rest). We see from 1 Kings 12:17 above that there were some people belonging to the ten tribes who were dwelling in the cities of Judah. These would have their ties in the place where they had long lived, and so would cast in their lot with the southern kingdom, rather than, because of the division, remove from their homes and seek new ones in the north. These must be intended by ‘the remnant of the people.’

Thus saith the LORD, Ye shall not go up, nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel: return every man to his house; for this thing is from me. They hearkened therefore to the word of the LORD, and returned to depart, according to the word of the LORD.
24. for this thing is from me] See above on 1 Kings 12:15.

and returned to depart] This is the literal rendering of the original, but is Hebrew rather than English. In R.V. the sense is given by ‘and returned and went their way.’ The LXX. has καὶ κατέπαυσαν τοῦ πορευθῆναι, ‘and they ceased from going.’

At this point the LXX. (Vat.) has a long passage inserted, for an account of which see additional note at the end of this chapter.

On the addition in the LXX. after 1 Kings 12:24This long passage has many peculiarities not only in the arrangement, which differs considerably from that of the narrative of the Hebrew text, but also in some portions of its contents. It takes up the history at 1 Kings 11:43 with Solomon’s death and Rehoboam’s accession. But it gives different numbers, both for the age of Rehoboam when he began to reign and for the duration of his reign, from those in the Hebrew text. Instead of 41 years old (as in 1 Kings 14:21) he is here stated to have been 16, and to have reigned 12 and not 17 years. It must be owned that the conduct of Rehoboam is much more like that of a very young man than of one who had passed middle-age. The LXX. continues the history with an account of Jeroboam, stating that his mother’s name was Sarira, γυνὴ πόρνη, and that he was put over the levy of the house of Joseph. And Jeroboam built for Solomon a city, also called Sarira, in the hill country of Ephraim, and was employed in the buildings around Jerusalem, and began to aspire to the kingdom. Then follows Solomon’s attempt to kill him, and his flight into Egypt, the king of which is Shishak (Σουσακίμ). After this the story is an exact parallel of what is given in the Hebrew about Hadad (1 Kings 11:19-22). Jeroboam finds favour with Shishak, and marries Ano, the elder sister of Thekemina, the wife of the king. He seeks to return, but is hardly allowed to go. At length he comes back to Sarira, gathers the people and fortifies the place. After this follows the sickness of his son and his wife’s visit to Ahijah, somewhat like the narrative in 1 Kings 14:1-13. Next we are told of a gathering at Shechem where both Rehoboam and Jeroboam are present, and it is said that on this occasion Shemaiah the prophet (and not Ahijah) rent his garment and gave ten parts to Jeroboam to signify the ten tribes over which he was hereafter to be king. Next comes the account of the popular petition to Rehoboam, and his delay and final answer; then his flight from Shechem to Jerusalem and the preparations for war, which is forbidden by Shemaiah.

Among other peculiarities of this form of the story may be added that the Egyptian wife is said to have been given to Jeroboam after his first request to be allowed to depart, apparently with a view to make him more contented. In the account of the visit of inquiry about the sick child, Ahijah says, ‘Thou shalt go forth from me, and it shall be when thou enterest into the city, into Sarira, that thy maidens shall come out to meet thee, and shall say, ‘The child is dead,’ and further on it is added ‘and the cry of mourning came to meet her.’ There is an addition also to the complaint which is presented to Rehoboam, ‘Thy father made his yoke heavy upon us’, καὶ ἐβάρυνε τὰ βρώματα τῆς τραπέζης αὐτοῦ, ‘and he made burdensome the meat of his table’; a sentence which seems to relate to the demands made so largely on the various districts for the supply of Solomon’s table. A different form is given also when the revolt begins, ‘And all the people spake, as one man, each to his neighbour, and they all cried out, saying, We have no part in David &c.… Each of you to your tents, O Israel, for this man is not to be our prince or our leader.’ It is also said that Rehoboam’s preparation for war was made ἐνισταμένου τοῦ ἐνιαυτοῦ, ‘when the year came round’: a phrase which has very close parallels in the Greek of 2 Samuel 11:1; 1 Kings 20:22; 1 Kings 20:26; and is so completely after the Hebrew manner that from this and much beside in the passage we can hardly doubt that it is derived from some Hebrew original. But the numerous inconsistencies found in it make it unworthy to be put in comparison with the story as recorded in the sacred text. It partakes very much of the character of those additions which we find made in the LXX. to the story of Ezra and Daniel, and, though of interest as a specimen of this kind of literature, cannot be accepted as raising any serious questions about the general correctness of the Massoretic text in the history of Jeroboam.

Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.
25–33. Jeroboam sets up golden calves in Dan and Bethel, and thus makes Israel to Sin (Not in 2 Chron)

25. built Shechem] i.e. Strengthened it by walls and made it thus fit to be the royal residence, ‘the political centre of a confederation whose military leader bore the title of king.’ It had in early days been a strong town with gates, but was overthrown by Abimelech (see Jdg 9:4-5). For ‘mount Ephraim’ here, we should rather read as elsewhere, with R.V., ‘the hill country of Ephraim.’

Penuel] This place was in the country of Gilead, on the east of the Jordan. When Gideon (Jdg 8:8) in his pursuit after the Midianites crossed from the west side to the east of the Jordan, the first place mentioned in his route is Succoth, and after that Penuel. It was important for Jeroboam to have a stronghold on both sides of the river, as his subjects lived on both sides, and this town, Penuel, was no doubt a post of consequence, as it was evidently near to the fords of the Jordan, so that a force stationed there would protect the land from invaders.

And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:
26. And Jeroboam said in his heart] Josephus (Ant. viii. 8, 4) says the idea was forced on the king’s mind by the approach of the Feast of Tabernacles, at which it had been usual for the people to go up in great numbers to Jerusalem, and to live there for some days.

If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah.
27. if this people go up to do sacrifice] There appears to have been no thought in the popular mind that the choice of a different ruler for the ten tribes would break their connexion with the worship at the Temple. So that we must judge the Temple to have now become the one recognised place for worship. The R.V. represents the Hebrew more closely by rendering to offer sacrifices.

then shall the heart of this people turn] After the first excitement of the revolt was over, and Jeroboam had begun to exercise lordship in his turn, the attraction of the Temple, and the prestige of the older family, and especially the glories attaching to the house of David would begin to reassert their power. Jeroboam expresses this feeling when he still calls Rehoboam ‘their lord.’

they shall kill me] When they have begun to repent of the step which they have taken at my leading. Such reaction of feeling is more common in Eastern than in Western minds.

and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah] The LXX. omits these words. The title ‘king of Judah’ is first used in this chapter, here and above in 1 Kings 12:23.

Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.
28. two calves of gold] The Israelites in Egypt had been familiarized with the ox as an object of worship, and it would therefore not be unknown among their descendants. Hence their readiness to recognize such an image as a symbol of the divinity when they were in the wilderness (Exodus 32:4; Exodus 32:8). The sin was the same on this occasion as on that. God had commanded that no image should be made as a symbol of Him. The calves were therefore an abomination, (directly contrary to Exodus 20:4), even though when bowing before them the people professed to worship Him who led their fathers out of Egypt.

The LXX says ‘he went and made’ ἐπορεύθν καὶ ἐποίησε, and instead of ‘and said unto them,’ in the next clause, which reads a little awkwardly, gives ‘and said unto the people.’

It is too much for you to go up] The sense intended is probably given in the margin of R.V. ‘Ye have gone up long enough.’ To the mind of the Jew there might be a reason for ceasing altogether to go to Jerusalem, now that the kingdoms were divided, but no excuse from the fatigue of the journey. Jeroboam’s argument was ‘You have chosen a new king, choose also new places for worship.’ Cf. Ezekiel 44:6, where the sense is ‘Have done with your abominations.’

behold thy gods] Words very like those of the people in the wilderness (Exodus 32:4) over their golden calf. But the sense is rather: ‘Behold thy God.’ Under this symbol of the young bull, see and recognise thy God, Jehovah. The young bull was the symbol of creative power.

And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.
29. in Beth-el] The well-known city in the extreme south of the tribe of Ephraim, and so just on the southern border of the new kingdom of Israel.

in Dan] The town, formerly called Laish, in the very north of Palestine, and always mentioned as a limit of the land in the phrase ‘from Dan to Beersheba.’ It was so remote from the influence of the rest of the nation that its inhabitants lived ‘after the manner of the Zidonians.’ They were, that is, sea-faring people, rather than shepherds and husbandmen like the rest of their brethren. The places chosen by Jeroboam were at either limit of his kingdom, and had been associated with religious worship in ancient times. See Jdg 18:30; Jdg 20:18; Jdg 20:26; 1 Samuel 10:3.

And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.
30. And this thing became a sin] Being in contradiction of the second commandment.

for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan] It appears as though by these words it was intended to shew how fully the people were led astray. To far-off Dan even did they go. This had been associated with worship aforetime, though it was idolatrous. Jdg 18:30. There was no need to point out that they went to Bethel. That had been a place of worship before, and in consequence had sacred associations. Of course they were not hard to persuade to go there. But Jeroboam’s device was successful in respect of the other shrine also.

The LXX. adds to this verse ‘and they neglected the house of the Lord.’

And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi.
31. An house of high places] The graven image must have its temple. So in Bethel and in Dan buildings were raised, and an eminence chosen for the site of each. Hence it is better to render the plural notion, as R.V., houses of high places.

and made priests of the lowest of the people] Better, as R.V. ‘and made priests from among all the people’. The noun properly means ‘an end’, ‘an extremity.’ Then in the plural, as it is here, ‘the extremities,’ which between them comprise the whole space of anything. Thus the word is rendered in Jdg 18:2 (R.V.) ‘five men from their whole number.’ Here the idea is that Jeroboam’s priests were taken from anywhere, and so the selection differed much from that of the southern kingdom, where one tribe alone held the priest’s office. The Levites who before the division of the kingdom had been scattered among all the tribes, now, in the main, withdrew to the southern tribes (2 Chronicles 11:13-14).

And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made.
32. And Jeroboam ordained a feast] This was intended to be a set-off for the Feast of Tabernacles, of the celebration of which, in Jerusalem, Jeroboam had been so much in fear.

in the eighth month on the fifteenth day] The Feast of Tabernacles was on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:34). Jeroboam came as near as he could but chose a later month, perhaps induced to do so because the harvest-celebration kept at the Feast of Tabernacles could be very well placed later in the northern part of the land. Josephus (Ant. VIII. 8. 5) says, contrary to all other authorities, that Jeroboam’s feast was in the seventh month.

and he offered upon the altar] The verb sometimes means ‘to go up unto,’ and this is represented on the margin of A. V. The text and margin change places in R.V., because the sacrificing is spoken of in the words which immediately follow. Read, he went up unto, and so twice over in 1 Kings 12:33.

so did he in Beth-el] The king himself took part in the dedication of the southern high place. The more distant Dan perhaps was inaugurated by some of the newly-made priests. Thus Jeroboam in some degree imitated Solomon’s dedication of the Temple.

So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.
33. which he had devised of his own heart] This is a translation of the Keri, i.e. the marginal reading of the Hebrew. The Kethib (i.e. the written text) would be rendered ‘apart,’ and if it be correct must be understood, as intimating that the king consulted nobody, which comes much to the same as what we now translate. The difference to the eye between מלבד = ‘apart,’ and מלבו = ‘from his heart’ is very slight.

and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense] The marginal note of the A. V. points out that the last verb is in the infinitive. By translating with R.V. this is made apparent in the text and went up unto the altar to burn incense.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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1 Kings 11
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