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One Kings Twelve

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

1 Kings 12:1 And Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.

Shechem. Rehoboam apparently selected Shechem as the site of his intended coronation because of its historic significance (as the place where the Lord had first appeared to Abraham in the promised land—Genesis 12:6, 7) and its centralized location, about midway between Dan and Beersheba. Representatives of all the tribes came there to meet Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:3), with Jeroboam, newly returned from Egypt, quickly assuming the role of spokesman.

1 Kings 12:2 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;)

1 Kings 12:3 That they sent and called him. And Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying,

1 Kings 12:4 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.

1 Kings 12:5 And he said unto them, Depart yet for three days, then come again to me. And the people departed.

1 Kings 12:6 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?

1 Kings 12:7 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.

1 Kings 12:8 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:

1 Kings 12:9 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?

1 Kings 12:10 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.

1 Kings 12:11 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.

heavy yoke. Despite his wisdom, Solomon yielded to political expediency, with his many pagan wives and their idolatrous nature-religions, and to his pride in opulence and grandeur, which required levying forced labor and heavy taxes on his people (note 1 Kings 11:1-8; 5:13-16).

scorpions. The “scorpions” probably referred to particularly painful multi-tailed lashes with barbed hooks, although it may be possible that the threatened punishment involved actual scorpion stings.

1 Kings 12:12 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.

1 Kings 12:13 And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men's counsel that they gave him;

1 Kings 12:14 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.

1 Kings 12:15 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.

that he might perform. Note also 1 Kings 11:14, 23; 12:24. Men may choose particular courses of action, but God is nevertheless working through their own choices. Compare Acts 2:23.

1 Kings 12:16 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.

1 Kings 12:17 But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.

1 Kings 12:18 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.

1 Kings 12:19 So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

1 Kings 12:20 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.

made him king. In spite of the fact that God providentially allowed Jeroboam to become king, there was no divine anointing, and neither priest nor prophet took part in the coronation.

1 Kings 12:21 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.

1 Kings 12:22 But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,

1 Kings 12:23 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,

1 Kings 12:24 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.

1 Kings 12:25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel.

1 Kings 12:26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David:

1 Kings 12:27 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.

1 Kings 12:28 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.

behold thy gods. Earlier in his career, Jeroboam had been a man of great promise (1 Kings 11:28), and God had chosen him to lead the ten northern tribes. He became overly ambitious and presumptuous, however, thinking he could best retain the loyalty of his subjects by establishing for them a more convenient religion. Jeroboam led the people to still profess to worship the God of their fathers, but not worship at Jerusalem. This led to the blurring of the true religion's distinctiveness in relation to the pagan religions. He even established a new priesthood and new religious festivals (1 Kings 12:31-33), with new altars and new sacrifices. Already conditioned to such changes by the apostasies of Solomon, the people largely went along with this accommodationist religion, but God rebuked and repudiated Jeroboam because of it (1 Kings 13).

1 Kings 12:29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

put he in Dan. This “high place” (1 Kings 12:31) has actually been excavated and identified archaeologically. Dan's name is even mentioned in an inscription referring to this worship center. What is believed to be the large stone platform on which the golden calf was set has been discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel, along with various cult objects associated with this pagan worship.

1 Kings 12:30 And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.

1 Kings 12:31 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.

1 Kings 12:32 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.

sacrificing unto the calves. There had been a precedent in Israel for using golden calves to represent Jehovah, for their first high priest, Aaron, had long before done the same (Exodus 32:4), persuading the people that this Egyptian cult with which they had been familiar was just an alternate way of worshipping God. Jeroboam had recently spent time in Egypt (1 Kings 11:40), and was again impressed with this cult as a means of luring the already doubting Israelites (doubting because of the many pagan religions promoted by Solomon for his wives) away from having to go to Jerusalem to worship. This device would appeal also to their pagan neighbors.

1 Kings 12:33 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.