1 Kings 12:16
So when all Israel saw that the king listened not to them, the people answered the king, saying, What portion have we in David?…
This was the song of the insurrection. It is the Marseillaise of Israelitish history. We heard it first after the revolt of Absalom (2 Samuel 20:1). It appears to have originated with "Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite." The revolt described in our text was more serious, beginning as it did the ruin of Solomon's splendid kingdom. All such national events (the wars of the Roses, the civil war of the sixteenth century, the revolution of 1688, the French Revolution of the last century, etc.) are worthy of study. Moral causes lie at the root of them all, and the hand of God is over them all. The moral and Divine are more clearly revealed in Old Testament history; hence in part its value. In tracing this great revolution to its causes, we do not forget, though we do not dwell upon, two factors to which our attention is called by Scripture -
(1) the design of God, and
(2) the ambition of Jeroboam.
We must remember, however, in regard to the former that God expressly declared that He would base future events on the king's obedience or disobedience to His law. And as to the ambitious designs of Jeroboam, they would all have been futile if (as God had foreseen) there had not been popular discontent, combined with princely folly. What, then, were the ultimate causes of the event described?
I. TRIBAL JEALOUSY. This had always existed. Ephraim and Judah had specially displayed it. The jealousy of Ephraim had asserted itself both against Gideon and Jephthah (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1). The pride of this tribe was fostered by such facts as these: Joshua sprung from it, Samuel was born within its borders, Saul was of Benjamin, hereditary with Joseph; its geographical position gave it power, etc. Hence, till David's time, the leadership of the nation was practically in the hands of Ephraim. He reigned seven years over Judah before he could obtain supremacy over the other tribes. He dealt wisely with those who belonged to Ephraim, selecting some of them for special favour, etc. Solomon, however, aggravated the discontent by his oppression towards the close of his reign, so that Rehoboam had no easy task before him. All was ripe for revolt.
1. National strength is impossible without national unity. Clans must lose their jealousies if they would become a strong people. The severance of the rich from the poor, the hostility between capital and labour, the disaffection of any section of the people must be a source of weakness, a sign of decadence.
2. The Church's power is sapped by sectarian hostility. There may be diversity in modes of work and worship, but amongst all Christians should be unity of spirit. "There are diversities of operations, but the same spirit." Each tribe may march through the wilderness with its own banner, but all must find their one centre in the Divine presence, and seek their one Canaan as a laud of rest. Isaiah foretells the day when "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (1 Kings 11:13).
II. HEAVY TAXATION. It affected the people's wealth, and still more painfully their personal labour. A more foolish step than that which Rehoboam took could scarcely be imagined. He sent to appease the people "Adoram, who was over the tribute;" the very man who represented the oppression they resented! Quem Dens vult perdere, prius dementat. Show how extravagance, disregard of the rights of others, unjust demands, carelessness of the interests of dependants, lead to disaster - in homes, in business, in national and ecclesiastical affairs. Illustrate this from history; the decline and fall of the Roman Empire; the dissolution of the formerly vast dependencies of Spain, etc. So if a Church demands too much, as Rome does, she loses all. The intelligent men of Roman Catholic countries are sceptics.
III. RELIGIOUS INDIFFERENCE. That this existed is evident from the ease with which Solomon set up the worship of Ashtoreth, Milcom, and Chemosh; and from the fact that Jeroboam, directly after the revolt, erected the calves at Bethel and Daniel J.D. Michaelis and others have sought to justify the people in their rebellion, but there can be no doubt that so far as they were concerned the revolt was criminal Neither in this nor in any other act of man does higher causality affect the morality of an act. They were anxious about the decrease of taxation, but not about the removal of idolatry. To them it mattered little whether Jehovah were worshipped or not. But it was to represent Him, to fulfil His purpose, to preserve His truth, that the kingdom existed. Indifference to God is destructive of the stability of human hopes, of the kingliness of human character, of the peace and security of human kingdoms. Christ has come into the world to arouse it from indifference, that all men may go out to greet Him as "King of kings, and Lord of lords." If you lose the kingdom of heaven it is because, like Rehoboam, you throw it away. The lost opportunity never came to him again. He was forbidden to try to recover by force what he sacrificed by folly (ver. 24). Over him and over many a man the lament may be heard," Oh that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes." - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: When all Israel saw that the king didn't listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, "What portion have we in David? Neither do we have an inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, Israel! Now see to your own house, David." So Israel departed to their tents.