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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

1 Kings 12

Verses 1-11

1 Kings Chapter 12 and Second Chronicles Chapters 10,11

Commentary on 1 Kings 12:1-11 AND 2 Chronicles 10:1-11

Succession of Rehoboam,

Rehoboam chose to have his coronation at Shechem, one of the chief cities of Ehpraim, possibly in attempt to forestall the threatened rebellion against him from that quarter. It appears that he intended to make a show of force and strength to intimidate those who wished changes in the kingdom. Jeroboam, down in Egypt, heard of Solomon’s death and gathering for the coronation of Rehoboam at Shechem and came home to lead the resistance. In fact, the people of the northern tribes sent for Jeroboam to come and be their spokesman.

These came to meet Rehoboam with their proposal prepared. It was a reasonable proposal. It consisted first of a complaint, which also was legitimate. The taxation of Solomon on them had been severe, it being required to carry out all his building projects. Now they felt it should be made lighter, and so they promised to be loyal servants of Rehoboam if he would make the burden lighter. Rehoboam asked for three days to consider their request, promising to answer them on the third day.

Rehoboam turned first to the counselors of his fathers, who had served his father faithfully in his reign. Perhaps he thought their having supported his father in his endeavors they would wish to continue as he had done. However, these wise men had their fingers on the pulse of Israel. They knew the tax was too heavy, and that the people were rebellious, so they advised Rehoboam to comply with their request. If so, they felt, these disturbed tribes would remain in the kingdom and serve Rehoboam.

The young king did not like the old men’s counsel and called to his playboy peers, to hear their counsel in answer of the question. These had grown up with Rehoboam and enjoyed the luxuries of the court. They did not wish to give up any of it, which they must have felt would have been necessary if they relented to lighten the burden of taxation. Therefore they advised Rehoboam to answer them with words of defiant authority and threatening. He should tell them that, instead of lightening their yoke he would increase it. In comparison his little finger would be thicker than the loins of Solomon. Solomon had wielded whips over them, but he would wield the scorpion, which was a whip containing barbed pieces of metal in its lashes. Rehoboam was an excellent example of the "fool in his folly" so often mentioned in Solomon’s writings (e.g., Proverbs 17:12).

Verses 12-20

1 Kings 12:12-20 AND 2 Chronicles 10:12-19

Kingdom Divided,

Rehoboam gives every indication of being a spoiled play-boy prince, who is used to having his way without rebuke. He was filled with foolish pride, and in so many respects far different from his wise father. In fact, if he had ever read his father’s wisdom, or heard of it, it made little impression on him. So many of the Proverbs could be applied to him, certainly Proverbs 16:18, "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall." Certainly Rehoboam displayed an abundance of pride and haughtiness in conduct of himself before the representative of the northern tribes.

It is all but astounding that Rehoboam, faced with the serious threat of rebellion, should answer with such belligerence. It was practically a dare to them to rebel, and so the northern tribes seemed to consider it. The new king was saying, "You don’t like my father’s taxes, but I’ll raise them; you thought his oppression was severe, but you haven’t seen anything!" The Scriptures say this was that what the Lord had spoken by Ahijah, the prophet, should come to pass. This does not mean that Rehoboam was but a robot in the hand of the Lord, and could not have made any other decision. It does mean that the Lord foresaw from the beginning the answer of Rehoboam and would use it to bring judgment on the house of Solomon. It was, of course, certain to happen, according to the pronouncement through Ahijah, and conformable to the Lord’s foreknowledge.

The elders of the northern tribes immediately announced their renunciation of Rehoboam’s lordship over them. They would have no further allegiance to the house of David nor seek anything from him. He should look to his own house. The Israelites on this occasion revived the ancient slur against David as the "son of Jesse, " first cast at him by King Saul. Thus David was characterized by them as the son of an insignificant nobody who rebelled against his lord, King Saul. So these tribes returned to their tents and rebelled against the house of David, never to be restored until the end of this age.

Rehoboam continued his kingship over the tribe of Judah, the largest, wealthiest, and most prominent of the twelve. Later the tribe of Benjamin also adhered to the house of David, and the territory of the tribe of Simeon, allotted them in the division of the land fell in the area of the kingdom of Judah. Many think the Simeonites had been dissemin­ated throughout Israel by this time, and no longer existed as a separate entity.

Rehoboam was not content to allow the rupture of the kingdom, and sent Adoram (also called Hadoram and Adoniram) to gather the tribute as usual. He met with malicious opposition. The people took up stones and stoned him to death. Rehoboam finally realized the folly he had created, and filled with alarm, hastily took to his chariot and fled back to Jerusalem lest he fall victim to these aroused Israelites also.The people of the north then called Jeroboam to the congregation and anointed him king over the northern tribes, all of Israel except Judah, though they did not retain Benjamin. The sins of Solomon and Israel had "found them out," in Rehoboam and the northern rebellion (Numbers 32:23).

Verses 21-24

1 Kings 12:21-24 AND 2 Chronicles 11:1-14

War Forbidden,

Upon returning to Jerusalem King Rehoboam still had intentions of compelling the return of the northern tribes to his rule. He had some remarkable advantages. He began by assembling the trained army, consisting of 180,000 very capable warriors. In addition Rehoboam also had the advantage of support on the part of the more godly people. Their allegiance was to the temple and the system of worship established by David and Solomon in the capital, Jerusalem. From material aspects it looked favorable for Rehoboam to force the return of the northern tribes.

But this was not in accord with the Lord’s will, who made His will apparent by sending the prophet Shemaiah to the king with His message. It forbade his going up against the northern tribes, "his brethren", for the thing was of the Lord, or in accordance with His will. the warriors of Judah and Benjamin were to be sent back to their houses. The peaceful acquiescence of the king and people with the Lord’s command is a measure of the king’s early character, which was nearer to the will of God than later. This may have been because of a felt need for the Lord during these disturbing times more so than in later days.

At this point begins a more detailed accounting in the Scriptures of the things concerning the kingdom of Judah in Chronicles than in Kings. From this point many events of the kingdom of Judah will be related only in Chronicles, while practically nothing of the events of the northern kingdom will be recorded in Chronicles. Because of the Levitical concern for the continuance of the temple service and related things, and for the Messianic kingly line, the Chronicles were written and preserved following the Babylonian captivity of Judah, when the northern kingdom had long before ceased to exist.

Though he could not go to war with the northern tribes by the prohibition of the Lord, Rehoboam did not trust Jeroboam not to attack him. He set about, using some of the country’s great wealth no doubt, to fortify many of the chief cities of his realm. These numbered fifteen scattered all over the land. Two of them, A-alon and Zorah were on the northwestern frontier with Israel, others were in the strategic areas of the Philistine plain and approaches of Egypt, while the majority were in the southern areas. Jerusalem was a formidable obstacle itself in any invasion from the north, and the fortified cities would be in the more likely places the enemy might strike.

Rehoboam staffed the cities with men and captains, and stored for them food supplies and war materiel. These factors, together with the allegiance of the two most outstanding tribes, except Ephraim, placed Rehoboam in an appreciable advantage in any confrontation with Jeroboam. Beside this he might have also. laid claim to having the Lord. on his side. Jeroboam’s new religious organization dispossessed the priests and Levites of the northern area, who then moved in wholesale numbers from their former possessions into Jerusalem and Judah. It was a godly move to disassociate themselves from Jeroboam’s idolatry (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Verses 25-33

1 Kings 12:25-33 AND 2 Chronicles 11:15-17

While Kings goes into some detail to tell how Jeroboam set up false religion in the northern kingdom, Chronicles gives a short account of the apostasy. Jeroboam built up the city of Shechem in his own tribe of Ephraim to be his capital and also fortified Penuel on the east side of the Jordan, in the land of Gilead. His lack of wealth, such as that enjoyed in Jerusalem, probably kept him from more extensive developments. Furthermore he wished to take measure to keep his people from reconsidering the situation and going back. to Rehoboam. He could see a major possibility of that event in the continued worship of his people in the temple at Jerusalem. Nominally all Israel were the people of the Lord God, and since He had made Jerusalem His meetingplace with Israel it would be logical for the people to continue to think of Jerusalem as the center of their worship.

In his reasoning Jeroboam considered that the people would eventually reunite with Judah, turn against him and kill him. The solution to this problem, he surmised, was to establish their religion along other lines that would keep them from Jerusalem and Judah. Consequently he decided to make two golden calves, probably taking his cue from the golden calf which Aaron constructed in the wilderness (Exodus 32:1-6). He certainly should have known the Lord’s displeasure with such. His excuse for the people was that it was too inconvenient for them to go down to Jerusalem. How many people today still treat the matter of the Lord’s service as one of convenience only? True worship then, and now, requires sincerity of the worshipper (Joshua 24:14; 2 Corinthians 2:17). Jeroboam did not purport to start a new religion, but in setting up the golden calves he referred to them as the god who brought Israel out of Egypt. It was simply meant to be the worship of Jehovah under the guise of a calf.

The calf was the standard of the camp of Ephraim in the wilderness, traditionally, and as such is one of the faces of the cherubim in the divine representation revealed to the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:10). One of the calves Jeroboam set up at Bethel, a desecration of that shrine where the Lord had appeared in vision to their forefather, Jacob, and vouchsafed to him the covenant of Abraham (Genesis, chap. 28). The other was set up in far northern Dan, which had been a place of idol worship from the beginning (Judges 18:30-31). The people of these tribes, for the major part, fell in readily with this sin, some of them actually going to far off Dan to worship the calf there.

Jeroboam could not trust the Levitical priests of the Levites; who might have turned the people back to the right worship of the Lord. Therefore he ordained his own priesthood, taking from the "lowest" (commonest) of the people to be his priests. The popular feast of tabernacles which was held during the eighth month of the Hebrew year was another occasion for the gathering of the Israelites to the temple in Jerusalem. To offset this Jeroboam proclaimed his own feast in worship of the calves at the same time. In fact, he seems to have inaugurated his new system at the very time of this feast, at which time he sacrificed and offered incense to the calf of Bethel.

All of this was of Jeroboam’s own device and from his evil heart. The Chronicles account calls these shrines after the pagan terminology, high places and devil-worship. The word devils is literally "satyrs", a demonic figure of paganism. Many of the good, God-fearing people of the northern tribes left their homes and emigrated along with the priests and Levites into Judah. This resulted in strengthening of Rehoboam and his kingdom for a period of three years, after which the intimation is they felt sure of themselves and were not as careful to seek the will of the Lord. Then the kingdom was weakened, as shall be seen.

Continuing comment, specifically on 2 Chronicles 11:18-23. Included in 1st edition Hardbound Commentary under 1 Kings chapter 12.

House of Rehoboam, 2 Chronicles 11:18-23

Rehoboam had some of the characteristics as his father, as indicated in the last statement of this passage, "And he desired many wives." As a matter of fact he acquired many wives, though not nearly as many as Solomon. This was no doubt due to his far lesser fame as well as a depleting fortune. Yet eighteen wives and sixty concubines are an ample number to correspond with the statement of his desire.

Rehoboam married his cousins in three instances, princesses,

who seem to have been favored among the many. His first wife, Mahalath, was the daughter of David’s son, Jerimoth, about whom nothing more is known. Abihail, the second, was the daughter of Eliab, the elder brother of David, (though it is probable a grand-daughter is meant, since the time is several generations removed from that of Eliab). She was the mother of three of his sons. The third wife, and Rehoboam’s favorite, was Maachah, the daughter of Absalom. She was the mother of four of his sons, including Abijah, the crown prince. In all Rehoboam was the father of twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.

Rehoboam also evidenced a trait of wisdom with regard to his sons. He dispersed them into the cities which he had fortified, evidently providing each of them with military training and preventing them from becoming play-boys as he had evidently been. Rehoboam made Abijah the chief of all his sons and groomed him to be king after him. Rehoboam gave them a good allowance, indicated by "victual in abundance."

Lesson to be noted: 1) having a wise father does not always assure a wise son after him; 2) belligerence will not beget a congenial response; 3) there should never be resistance of the known will of the Lord; 4) God has one way of worship, and men change this to their own condemnation; 5) sons are more apt to adopt their fathers’ bad traits than his good.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 1 Kings 12". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/1-kings-12.html. 1985.