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with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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1 Kings 12

Rehoboam’s accession, The people’s petition, His rough answer. (1-15) Ten tribes revolt. (16-24) Jeroboam’s idolatry. (25-33)

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Rehoboam’s accession, The people’s petition, His rough answer

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

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;)

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

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.

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

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?

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.

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:

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?

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.

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.

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.

13 And the king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old men’s counsel that they gave him;

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.

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.

Ten tribes revolt

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.

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

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.

19 So Israel rebelled against the house of David unto this day.

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.

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.

22 But the word of God came unto Shemaiah the man of God, saying,

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,

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.

Jeroboam’s idolatry

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

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

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.

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.

29 And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan.

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

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.

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.

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. King, or to acknowledge his right, provided he would grant their request. The discontented assembled at Sichem, rather than at Jerusalem, as they would be under less restraint. C. — They appointed Jeroboam to prefer their petition. M. — Roboam was probably the only son whom Solomon had by his wives. C. — We read of two daughters, Japheth and Basemath. C. iv. 11. and 15. H. — Naama, the Ammonite, was the mother of Robaom, who, though 40 years old, was devoid of good sense. 2 Par. xiii. 7. Eccles. ii. 18. Eccles. xlvii. 27. C.

Ver. 2. Hearing of. Heb. “It (the assembly) and Jeroboam dwelt in Egypt.” H. — But in 2 Paral. x. 2, we find he returned. It is probable that both texts agreed in the days of S. Jerom; as the same letters, if read in a different manner, may have both meanings. C. — Sept. have also “returned.” H.

Ver. 4. Yoke, of personal service, (C.) first to build the temple, and afterwards to erect palaces, fortify cities, &c. The works of Mello gave the greatest discontent. H.

Ver. 6. Old man. Banaias and Jahiel. S. Jer. Trad.

Ver. 7. They said. Heb. “he said.” The transcribers, probably not understanding what they wrote, frequently make singular for plural verbs. So v. 21, “They came,” instead of he came. Some MSS. and the ancient versions are correct. Kennicott. — Yield. Heb. “serve.” By the submission of one day he might have acquired the kingdom. Great attention is requisite at first. Tacitus (Hist. iv.) represents Vespasian, Novo principatu suspensum, & vultus quoque ac sermones omnium circumspectantem.

Ver. 8. Him. They were young, compared with the former, though they might be 40 years old. M. — It was frequently the custom in the eastern courts, to educate young noblemen along with the heir to the crown. Such formed the captains of Alexander, (1 Mac. i. 7,) and the warriors of Sesostris, whose father ordered all the male children who were born on the same day in his dominions, to be brought to court, to be educated with his son. Diod. i. — The Persian nobility were brought up at the gate of the prince, that they might learn temperance and the art of governing. Xenoph. Cyrop. i. — The endeavours of Solomon were frustrated by the evil disposition of his son, and of those about his person.

Ver. 10. Finger is not expressed in Heb. or Sept. but the Syr. and Josephus agree with the Vulg. In Paral. we read loins, instead of back. Heb. and Sept. my little (Prot. supply finger). Sept. “my littleness,” mikrotes; but in Paral. finger is added. H. — Chal. “my weakness is stronger than my father’s strength.” The loins denote strength. Roboam did not use these boastings and insolent expressions: but he adopted their spirit. C. — He insinuates that he was twice as old as his father when he began to reign, (Pineda vii. 24,) or he uses a proverbial exaggeration. Delrio. adag. 202. M.

Ver. 11. Scorpions. Chal. “thorns.” Heb. has both significations. Like a tyrant, Roboam threatens to beat the people with sharp thorns. M.

Ver. 15. Turned. Heb. “for the cause (revolution) was from the Lord, (C.) that he might verify his word.” H. — God permitted the king to act impudently, and disposed things in such a manner, that the prediction took effect. C. — Indeed, the prophet had only spoken, because things would happen. H. — “There are two sorts of persecutors, those who blame, and those who flatter: the tongue of the flatterers persecutes more than the hand of him who kills.” S. Aug. in Ps. lxix. D. — Roboam fell a prey to his evil counsellors. H. — That, (v. 16.) denotes the sequel, not the final cause, as C. xiv. 9. W.

Ver. 16. Look to. Chal. “rule over thy own tribe.” They imitate those who give a bill of divorce. C. — Herein they were not excusable, no more than those who persecuted God’s people, though he permitted their wickedness, to chastise the guilty. M. — Seba had formerly withdrawn the people from David in the same manner. 2 K. xx. 1. H. — Abulensis thinks that as God had chosen Jeroboam, and his rival acted tryannically, the people did right. T.

Ver. 17. Them, as well as over many, who came into his territory, that they might practise the true religion, without restraint. H. C. xi. 13. — The kings of Juda afterwards made various conquests. C. xiii. 19. Hence they were able to contend with the other tribes (C.) with advantage. H. — Even at first, Roboam put himself at the head of 180,000 chosen men, v. 21. Abia had an army of 400,000, and Asa near 600,000; while Josaphat had 1,160,000 soldiers. 2 Par. xiii. 3. and xiv. 8. and xvii. 14.

Ver. 18. Aduram. One of the same name had occupied this post under David. 2 K. xx. 24. C. — Some suppose that this is the same with Adoniram. C. iv. 6. Roboam impudently sent him to appease the people, (Salien) or haughtily to demand the usual tribute; unless the king abandoned him to the fury of the populace, as an object of their horror. The people have often been appeased by the death of rapacious ministers. — Haste. Heb. “he strengthened himself,” or obstinately persisted in his resolution of reducing the people by force; and thus those, who might now have been easily reclaimed, were driven to choose another king, and the evil became irremediable. C.

Ver. 20. Again, from Egypt, v. 2. H. — He had not been present, it seems, at the second assembly; or, at least, he had retired as soon as Roboam had given his decision. But the people having stoned Aduram, and thus rendered a reconciliation very difficult, Jeroboam was invited to accept the crown. C. — As this was conformable to his utmost desires and the prophet’s declaration, he made no demur. C. xi. 37. H. Only. Benjamin was a small tribe, and so intermixed with the tribe of Juda, (the very city of Jerusalem being partly in Juda, partly in Benjamin) that hey are here counted but as one tribe. Ch. — Perhaps Benjamin at first hesitated; but, considering the greater danger to which it would be exposed, embraced the party of Roboam, v. 21. Salien.

Ver. 21. Fourscore. Sept. “twenty.” D. — But the Alex. copy agrees with the Heb. H.

Ver. 24. Them. This shews the great authority of Semeias. He wrote the history of Roboam. 2 Par. xii. 15. He also foretold the irruption of Sesac, to punish the house of Israel; but not to destroy it. C. — The obedience of Roboam deserves applause; though it would have been a vain attempt to resist God, who was resolved to punish his family. M. — God must have touched the hearts of the leaders, to convince them that he spoke by the mouth of Semeias. Salien. — The Vat. Sept. here subjoins almost the whole history of Jeroboam, improperly. H. See C. xiv.

Ver. 25. Built, or “had built,” while Roboam was preparing for his invasion. Salien. — Sichem and Phanuel had been ruined by Abimelech, and by Gedeon. Judg. viii. 17. and ix. 45. C. — By means of these fortresses, he secured both sides of the Jordan. H. — Jeroboam afterwards fixed his residence at Thirsa, where the court was kept, till Amri built Samaria.

Ver. 27. Him. Jeroboam chose to follow the dictates of human policy, rather than to depend on the express declaration of God, who had given him the kingdom. It was natural that the people should have a predilection for the house of David; (C.) and he might fear that the priests would prevail upon them to return to their old master, as they dwelt about Jerusalem. Salien.

Ver. 28. Device. Wicked policy, to make religion subservient to the state. W. — Jeroboam was right in judging, (H.) that it is one of the strongest foundations of government, (C.) and therefore he would have a peculiar religion for his subjects. H. — Strange blindness, caused by ambition! As if God could not have maintained him on the throne. The sequel evinces how delusive were his wicked projects. C. — Calves. It is likely, by making his gods in this form, he mimicked the Egyptians, among whom he had sojourned, who worshipped their Apis and their Osiris under the form of a bullock. Ch. S. Jerom in Osee iv. 15. and v. &c. — The Greeks commonly style these idols, heifers, are more contemptible than bulls: (T.) and some Fathers style them, “calf-heads.” Lact. iv. 10. Monceau pretends that they resembled the cherubim, and were intended to represent the true God; thus endeavouring to excuse the Israelites from idolatry, on this occasion, as well as when they came out of Egypt. Ex. xxxii. 4. But his arguments are weak, and Jeroboam is constantly condemned as a most wicked and idolatrous prince. C. xiv. 9. 4 K. xxiii. 15. Osee viii. 5. and x. 5. C. — Egypt. The same had been said by Aaron. M.

Ver. 29. Bethel and Dan. Bethel was a city of the tribe of Ephraim, in the southern parts of the dominions of Jeroboam, about six leagues from Jerusalem: Dan was in the extremity of his dominions, to the north, on the confines of Syria. Ch. — The Israelites did not hesitate to travel so far, v. 30. C. — Those who lived nearer Bethel, went thither along with their king. Salien. — The latter city was assigned to Benjamin. Jos. xviii. 22. M. — But probably many of the subjects of Jeroboam dwelt in it; so that it was the most southern city of his dominions. It had been consecrated by Jacob, (Gen. xxviii. 19.) and was a famous place of devotion. 1 K. x. 3. Sept. (Alex.) and S. Cyril (in Osee, p. 5.) read Galgal. Dan had been long before infected with idolatry. Judg. xviii. 30.

Ver. 30. Sin, almost irreparable, which brought on the ruin of the ten tribes. Though the calves were taken away along with them into captivity, the people did not return to the service of the Lord: but the greatest part imitated the conduct of the pagans, with whom they mixed; while some few returned with the tribe of Juda, and made a part of that kingdom. The Samaritans, who were sent to inhabit their country, were not of the race of Jacob. C.

Ver. 31. Places, to other idols or devils, (2 Par. xi. 15. H.) not merely at Bethel. C. xiii. — Lowest. Such places were fittest for him. W. — Heb. “extremity:” others understand people of reputation: but it seems he took any whosoever would (C. xiii. 33.) accept the office, without confining himself to the Levites. C. — Indeed most of them were banished, as refractory; (2 Par. xi. 13.) though some were so weak as to take part with him; (Ezec. lxiv. 10.) probably the descendants of Micha. Judg. xviii. 31. H. — They were not punished with instant death, like Core, though their crime seemed greater. Salien.

Ver. 32. Day. God had prescribed the seventh month, (C.) and this wicked prince purposely made choice of another, that the observance of the days appointed might be obliterated. Thus the Jacobins, in France, decreed that the tenth day should be the day of rest, instead of Sunday. H. — Religious assemblies tend greatly to promote the spirit of concord and peace.

Ver. 33. To: literally, “up on,” (super) as at the end of the verse. H. — The altars were very high and large. C. — Month. Sept. add, “on the festival which,” &c. M. — Heart. Hebrew reads millibod, (præter) instead of molbu, (ex corde suo.) Some MSS. retain the latter word, as it is printed also in the marginal keri. Leusden tells us, we are by no means to say it is the truer reading, because then the text must be allowed to be corrupted; but it only explains what is meant by præter, “besides.” A marvellous explanation! and perhaps it is only to be paralleled by ei explained by non. Kennicott. — Jeroboam has a mind to do honour to his new worship, and unites in his own person the sacerdotal and regal dignity, as the Roman emperors did. C. — Incense. Sept. “to sacrifice.” H. — From this period, many learned men date the 390 years of the iniquity of Israel. Ezec. iv. 5. D.