Matthew Poole's Commentary
And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.The Israelites seek to Rehoboam for relaxation, 1 Kings 12:1-5. He refusing the old men’s counsel, by the advice of the young men answereth them roughly, 1 Kings 12:6-15; for which ten tribes revolt; kill Adoram; and make Rehoboam to flee, 1 Kings 12:16-20. He raising an army is forbidden by Shemaiah, 1 Kings 12:21-24. Jeroboam, king of Israel, strengtheneth himself by cities, and by the idolatry of the two calves, 1 Kings 12:25-33.
Rehoboam did not call them thither, but went thither, because the Israelites prevented him, and had generally pitched upon that place rather than upon Jerusalem; partly, because it was most convenient for all, as being in the centre of the whole kingdom; partly, because that being in the potent tribe of Ephraim, they supposed there they might use that freedom of speech which they resolved to use to get their grievances redressed; and partly, by the secret direction of Jeroboam, or his friends, who would not trust themselves in Jerusalem, and thought Shechem a fitter place to execute their design. To make him king; to confirm him in the kingdom, which they generally-intended to do; he being the undoubted heir of the crown, and the only son which Solomon had from so vast a number of wives.
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;)Heard of it; in the Hebrew it is only heard, and may relate either to Solomon’s death, or to the meeting which all the tribes had appointed at Shechem.
That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,They sent and called him: when the people sent him word of Solomon’s death, they also sent a summons for him to come to Shechem. Or as soon as he had heard the tidings of Solomon’s death from others, or from common fame; presently there came a solemn message to him from the people, who desired his presence and assistance, as it seems probable, from divers motives; some, that they might translate the kingdom from Rehoboam to him; and others only for this reason, that the presence and countenance of a man of so great interest and reputation, and one that had some claim or pretence upon the kingdom, might lay the greater obligation upon Rehoboam to grant their desires of ease and relief.
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.Thy father made our yoke grievous by heavy taxes and impositions, not only for the temple and his magnificent buildings, but for the expenses of his numerous court, and of so many wives and concubines, whose luxury and idolatry must needs be very costly. And Solomon having so grossly forsaken God, it is no wonder if he oppressed the people, and made their yoke most grievous, as they speak. But here the people’s perverseness is very observable, both in this, that they mention and aggravate only the grievances of the government, but take no notice of the vast benefits which they received from it; and in that, that they mind nothing but their outward pressures, and have no regard unto that abominable idolatry which he set up among them; being, it seemed, either leavened with it by his pernicious example, or grown careless and negligent of all the concerns of religion; by which, see how ripe they were for all those dreadful judgments of God which are now hastening upon them.
And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.Give me that time for deliberation and advice.
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?With the old men that stood before Solomon; with Solomon’s old counsellors, whom age, and experience of men and things, and converse with such a king, had made wise.
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.If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, by complying with their desires, and condescending to them for a season, till the troubled humours be quieted, and the opportunity they now have, and that some of them seek, for sedition be gone, and thou be better stablished in thy throne. They use this expression, as foreseeing that some would dissuade him from this course, as servile or slavish, and below the majesty of a prince.
And answer them, for that is, answer them. Thy service, say they, is not hard; it is only a few good words, which it is as easy to give as bad ones.
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:He forsook the counsel of the old men; judging it unworthy of his majesty and authority, and likely to encourage and increase the people in their insolent demands. The young men; so called comparatively to the old men; otherwise they were near forty years old, as the following words imply.
That were grown up with him; which is added as the reason of his inclination to their counsels, because his daily converse with them, and the likeness of their age and humour to his, had engaged his affections to them, and that bribed his judgment, as it commonly doth.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
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.Or rather, is thicker, and therefore stronger, and mere able to crush you, if you proceed in these mutinous demands,
than his loins, in which is the principal seat of strength. My father was young and weak, and had many enemies, when he first took the kingdom; but I am the undoubted heir; and I find the kingdom by his wise care far better settled and fortified against all enemies, foreign or domestic, than he did.
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.I will add to your yoke, i.e. make it heavier and stronger, both to punish your petulancy, and to curb and restrain you from seditious attempts.
With scorpions, i.e. with such whips as will sting you like scorpions: if you proceed in these courses, I will most severely punish you for it.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.The cause was from the Lord; who gave up Rehoboam to so foolish and fatal a mistake, and alienated the people’s affections from him, and ordered all circumstances by his wise providence to that end.
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.What portion have we in David, i.e. in David’s family and son? we can expect no benefit or relief from him, and therefore we renounce all commerce with him, and subjection to him. See 2 Samuel 20:1. They named David rather than Rehoboam, to signify, that they did renounce, not Rehoboam only, but all David’s family.
The son of Jesse; so they call David in contempt: q. d. Rehoboam hath no reason to carry himself with such pride and contempt toward his people, for if we trace his original, it was as mean and obscure as many of ours. And since he abuseth his power, let us reduce him to his former obscurity.
To your tents, O Israel, i.e. let us all forsake him, and go to our own homes. there to consider, and then to meet and conclude how to provide otherwise for ourselves. Now see to thine own use, David, i.e. govern thy own family; for thou shalt no longer rule over us. Thus they brake out into actual rebellion against him, whom God had made their lawful sovereign; wherein, though they fulfilled God’s counsel, yet they violated his authority and command. And they do again make an opprobrious mention of David, whom they should not have named without honour.
But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.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.
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.He sent Adoram, either,
1. To pacify the people, and promise them relief, now when it was too late. But then he would not have sent a person so ungrateful to the people, as that sort of men use to be. Or rather,
2. To pursue the counsel which he had resolved upon, and to execute his office, and exact their tribute with rigour and violence, if need were.
To flee to Jerusalem, from Shechem, where it seems he yet staid, and his guards and friends with him; that being there in the midst of his kingdom, and among the seditious tribes, he might overawe them by his presence, and repress any tumults in their first rise.
So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.Their revolt is called rebellion, and therefore was sinful, because it was contrary to God’s authority, and command of subjection to David, and his seed for ever; from which the people were not freed by God’s promise and grant made to Jeroboam, which was but a secret transaction, not yet sufficiently revealed to them, and was not a grant of present and actual possession; but only a promise that God would give it to him in his own time and way, which might have been done, though neither Jeroboam nor the people had used these indirect and evil courses to bring it about, as it befell David upon the same occasion. Besides, the people did not this in compliance with God’s counsel, but to gratify their own passions, and get themselves a little ease.
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.That Jeroboam was come again, to wit, from Egypt, which was known before to the chief of the tribes, and to them who met at Shechem, and now was more universally known by all the people. They
sent to his tent or habitation, to which he had retired himself, as others also generally did: see above, 1 Kings 12:16.
Called him unto the congregation; which was summoned by the elders of the several tribes, to take advice how to settle their affairs, which they easily agreed to do, by conferring the crown upon Jeroboam, according to God’s promise made to him.
There was none, i.e. no entire tribe. See Poole "1 Kings 11:13,31,32".
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.With the tribe of Benjamin, i.e. that part of it which was next to Judah, and joined with them. See Poole "1 Kings 11:13".
Against the house of Israel, i.e. the families or tribes (for these words are promiscuously used one for the other) of Israel.
But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,The man of God, i.e. the prophet, so called, partly to distinguish him from others of that name; see Nehemiah 6:10 Jeremiah 29:31; and partly to add the more weight to his words.
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,No text from Poole on this verse.
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.This thing is from me; this event is from my counsel and providence, to punish Solomon’s apostacy, though they procured it by sinful means; and therefore, if you proceed, you must fight with me as well as them.
They hearkened therefore to the word of the Lord; either from conscience of their duty, or because they durst not oppose so potent an adversary.
Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.Jeroboam built Shechem, i.e. he repaired, and enlarged, and fortified it; for it had been ruined long since, Judges 9:45. He might choose it as a place both auspicious, because here the foundation of his monarchy was laid; and commodious, as being near the frontiers of his kingdom.
Penuel; a place beyond Jordan; of which see Genesis 32:30 Judges 8:17; to secure that part of his dominions.
And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:Said in his heart, i.e. reasoned within himself: The phrase discovers the fountain of his error, that he did not consult with God, who had given him the kingdom; as in all reason, and justice, and gratitude he should have done; nor believed God’s promise, 1 Kings 11:38; but his own imaginations and carnal policies.
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.This in itself might seem a prudent conjecture; for this would give Rehoboam, and the priests and Levites, the sure and faithful friends of David’s house, many opportunities of alienating their minds from him, and of reducing them to their former allegiance. But considering God’s providence, by which the hearts of all men, and the affairs of all kings and kingdoms, are governed, and of which he had lately seen so eminent an instance, it was a foolish as well as wicked course.
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.Made two calves of gold, in imitation of Aaron’s golden calf, and of the Egyptians, from whom he was lately come. And this he the rather presumed to do, because he knew the people of Israel were generally very prone to superstition and idolatry, as their whole history showeth; and that Solomon’s example and countenance given to false worships had exceedingly strengthened those inclinations; and therefore they were in a great measure prepared for such an attempt; especially when his proposition tended to their own case, and safety, and profit, which he knew was much dearer to them, as well as to himself, than their religion.
It is too much for you; too great a trouble and charge, and neither necessary nor safe for them, as things now stood.
Behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt; not as if he did himself believe, or thought to persuade the people to believe, that these calves were properly and truly that very God of Israel who brought them out of Egypt; (which was so monstrously absurd and ridiculous, that no Israelite in his right wits could believe it;) and had been so far from attaining his end, and satisfying his people, that this would have made him both hateful and contemptible to them: but his meaning was, that these images were visible representations, in and by which he designed to worship the true God of Israel; as appears, partly, from that parallel place, Exodus 32:4, See Poole "Exodus 32:4"; partly, because the priests and worshippers of the calves are said to worship Jehovah, and, upon that account, are distinguished from those belonging to Baal, 1 Kings 18:21 22:6,7; and partly, from Jeroboam’s design in this work, which was to quiet the people’s minds, and remove their scruples about going to Jerusalem to worship their God in that place, as they were commanded; which he doth, by signifying to them that he did not intend any alteration in the substance of their religion, nor to draw them from the worship of the true God to the worship of Ashtoreth, or Milcom, or any of those Baals which were set up by Solomon; but to worship that selfsame God whom they worshipped in Jerusalem, even the true God, and the God of their fathers, who brought them out of Egypt, but only to vary a circumstance; and that as they worshipped God at Jerusalem by and before one visible sign, even the ark, and the sacred cherubims there; so his subjects should worship God by another visible sign, even that of the calves, in other places: and as for the change of the place, he might suggest to them that God was present in all places where men with honest minds did call upon him; that before the temple was built, the best of kings, and prophets, and people did pray and sacrifice to God in divers high places, without any scruple, notwithstanding that restraint of God to one place, Deu 12:5, &c.; that God would dispense with them also in that matter, because going to Jerusalem was very dangerous to them at this time, and God would have mercy rather than sacrifice; and God had been pleased to dispense with his own ordinances in cases of necessity or great inconvenience, as he did with circumcision for forty years in the wilderness.
And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.Which two places he chose for his people’s conveniency;
Beth-el being in the southern, and
Dan in the northern parts of his kingdom.
And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.A sin, i.e. a cause or occasion of great wickedness among that people; not only of idolatry, which is called sin by way of eminency; nor only of the worship of the calves, wherein they pretended to worship the true God; but also of the worship of Baal, and of the utter desertion of the true God, and of all sorts of impiety and abominable sins, as is manifest from the history of that kingdom; in which there was not one good king, and very few of the people who were not guilty of heinous crimes, as the prophets witness.
The people went to worship: the king’s counsel and example seduced them, though it did not excuse their sin; and they willingly walked after this his wicked commandment, Hosea 5:11.
Unto Dan; which is not here mentioned exclusively, for that they went also to Beth-el is evident from 1 Kings 12:32,33, but for other reasons; either because that of Dan was first made, or best frequented, the people in those parts having been long leavened with idolatry; see Judges 18:30; or to show the people’s readiness to comply with the king’s command, and their zeal for idols; that those who lived in or near Beth-el had not patience to stay till that calf was finished, but all of them were forward to go as far as Dan, which was in the utmost borders of the land, to worship an idol there, when it was thought too much for them to go to Jerusalem to worship God.
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.An house of high places, or, an house (i.e. houses, or chapels) in the high places. Besides the famous houses, or temples, which he built at Dan and Beth-el, he built also, for his people’s better accommodation, lesser temples upon divers high places, which were esteemed sacred and venerable, because their pious ancestors had served God in them; and thereby Jeroboam might not seem to bring in a new religion, but only to revive the old.
Made priests of the lowest of the people; which he might do, either,
1. Because the better sort refused it, as an office below their quality. Or,
2. Because such would be satisfied with mean allowances; and so he could put into his own purse a great part of the rich possessions and revenues of the Levites, which doubtless he seized upon when they forsook him, and went to Jerusalem, 2 Chronicles 11:13,14, which also was very necessary for his present and pressing occasions; the rather, because he durst not yet lay grievous taxes upon that people, who had newly cast off Rehoboam for that very reason. Or,
3. Because mean persons would depend upon his favour, and therefore be very pliable to his humour, and firm to his interest, and zealous to promote the worship of the calves. But the words in the Hebrew properly signify from the ends of the people; which is and may be translated thus, out of all the people; promiscuously out of every tribe; which exposition seems to be confirmed by the following words, which are added to explain these,
which were not of the sons of Levi; though they were not of the tribe of Levi. And that indeed was Jeroboam’s sin; not that he chose mean persons, for some of the Levites were such; and his sin had not been less, if he had chosen the noblest and greatest persons, as we see in the example of Uzziah, 2 Chronicles 26:18,19; but that he chose men of other tribes, contrary to God’s appointment, which restrained that office to that tribe.
Not of the sons of Levi; to whom that office was confined by God’s express command; but he gave the priesthood promiscuously to any person of any other tribe.
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.Either,
1. A feast of dedication, like that which was in Judah, at the dedication of the temple. Or rather,
2. The feast of tabernacles, as may be thought, 1. Because that began on the fifteenth day of the month, Leviticus 23:34.
2. Because he is not blamed for devising the feast, (which thereby seems to have been of God’s appointment,) but only for devising the month, 1 Kings 12:33; for keeping God’s feast, not in God’s time, which was the fifteenth day of the seventh month, and so onward, Leviticus 23:34; but on the fifteenth day of the eighth month. And this alteration he made, either,
1. To keep up the difference between his subjects and those of Judah, as by the differing manners, so by the distinct times of their worship. Or,
2. Lest he should seem directly to oppose the God of Israel, (who had in a special manner obliged all the people to go up to Jerusalem at that time, Deu 16:16) by requiring their attendance to celebrate the feast elsewhere at the same time. Or,
3. To engage as many persons as possibly he could to come to his feast; which they would more willingly do, when the feast at Jerusalem was past, and all the fruits of the earth were most perfectly gathered in.
On the fifteenth day of the month; and so onward till the seven days ended. He took his pattern thence, to show that he worshipped the same God, and professed the same religion for substance, which they did; howsoever he differed in circumstances, as here he did in the time.
He offered; either,
1. By his priests. Or rather,
2. By his own hands; as appears from 1 Kings 13:1,4; which he did, to give the more countenance to his new-devised solemnity. Nor is this strange; for he might plausibly think, that he who by his own authority had made others priests, might much more exercise a part of that office; at least, upon an extraordinary occasion; in which case he knew David himself had done some things, which otherwise he might not do.
So did he in Beth-el, i.e. he himself did offer there in like manner, as he now had done at Dan.
Unto the calves; for they were two, 1 Kings 12:29.
He placed in Beth-el the priests; as he had done at Dan, 1 Kings 12:31.
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.Which he had devised of his own heart; which he appointed without any warrant from God, which was superstition. Compare Jeremiah 7:31.