Friday, June 9th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
Pett's Commentary on the Bible Pett's Commentary
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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 14". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ pet/ 1-kings-14.html. 2013.
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 1 Kings 14". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/
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Jeroboam’s Wife Approaches Ahijah The Prophet Concerning The Sickness of Their Son (1 Kings 14:1-18 ).
The life story of Jeroboam concludes with a quite remarkable story. It would appear that there was one member of the house of Jeroboam who was still seeking to be faithful to YHWH, and that was Abijah, the son of Jeroboam. And because YHWH intended to bring shame and disgrace on the whole house of Jeroboam He chose to save Abijah from this disgrace by bringing him to a premature, but honourable, death, followed by full mourning and a respectable burial. Like the man of God in the previous story it is the true believer who comes to premature death, within God’s purposes.
It is true that in neither case is there a hint of resurrection. Such a doctrine was unknown in Israel at that time. But resurrection is the only thing that makes ultimate sense in both these cases (and Elijah will also shortly be snatched away into ‘heaven’ - 2 Kings 2:1; 2 Kings 2:11). And certainly David seems to have had a sense the death was not the end for the true believer (Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 23:6). What this story does therefore clearly teach is that it is better to die in a true relationship with God, than to live on without it.
In the story Jeroboam sends his wife in disguise to discover from Ahijah the prophet what will happen to his ailing son (of unknown age). But forewarned by YHWH Ahijah takes the opportunity to denounce Jeroboam for his failure to live by the covenant that YHWH had made with him and declares that the child, the only member of the house of Jeroboam who is pleasing to YHWH, will die. It should be noted that this demonstrates that in spite of his apostasy, Jeroboam recognised that truth could only be found with the true prophets of YHWH. He had also demonstrated that when he had called on the man of God to heal him. In other words in his heart he really knew where the truth lay, but he saw it as too costly to accept.
a At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. And Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise, I pray you, and disguise yourself, that you be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam, and get yourself to Shiloh. Look, there is Ahijah the prophet, who spoke concerning me that I should be king over this people, and take with you ten loaves, and cakes, and a cruse of honey, and go to him. He will tell you what will become of the child” (1 Kings 14:1-3).
b And Jeroboam’s wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were set by reason of his age’ (1 Kings 14:4).
c And YHWH said to Ahijah, “See, the wife of Jeroboam comes to enquire of you concerning her son, for he is sick. Thus and thus shall you say to her, for it will be, when she comes in, that she will pretend that she is another woman” (1 Kings 14:5).
d And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, “Come in, you wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend that you are another? For I am sent to you with heavy tidings” (1 Kings 14:6).
e “Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘Forasmuch as I exalted you from among the people, and made you prince over my people Israel, and tore the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it to you, and yet you have not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do only what was right in my eyes, but have done evil above all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and have cast me behind your back” (1 Kings 14:7-9).
d “Therefore, behold, I will bring evil on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every man-child, him who is shut up and him who is left at large in Israel, and will utterly sweep away the house of Jeroboam, as a man sweeps away dung, until it is all gone. Him who dies of Jeroboam in the city will the dogs eat, and him who dies in the field will the birds of the heavens eat. For YHWH has spoken it” (1 Kings 14:10-11).
c “Arise you therefore, get you to your house, and when your feet enter the city, the child will die, and all Israel will mourn for him, and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam will come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing towards YHWH, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam. Moreover YHWH will raise him up a king over Israel, who will cut off the house of Jeroboam that day. But what? even now. For YHWH will smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and He will root up Israel out of this good land which He gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the River, because they have made their Asherim, provoking YHWH to anger. And He will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he has sinned, and with which he has made Israel to sin” (1 Kings 14:12-16).
b And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah, and as she came to the threshold of the house, the child died (1 Kings 14:17).
a And all Israel buried him, and mourned for him, according to the word of YHWH, which He spoke by his servant Ahijah the prophet (1 Kings 14:18).
Note that in ‘a’ Jeroboam sends his wife incognito to the prophet Ahijah in order to discover what will happen to his ailing son, and in the parallel the child was buried, and mourned by Israel as Ahijah had said. In ‘b’ Jeroboam’s wife arose and went to Shiloh, and in the parallel she arose and went to Tirzah. In ‘c’ YHWH tells Ahijah what he must say to Jeroboam’s wife, and in the parallel we learn what he was told to say. In ‘d’ Ahijah tells her that he has heavy tidings for the house of Jeroboam, and in the parallel we learn what those heavy tidings were. Centrally in ‘e’ Jeroboam is informed why he has been rejected.
1 Kings 14:1
‘ At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick.’
Abijah the son of Jeroboam had become very ill. We know neither the nature of the sickness nor the age of Jeroboam’s son, although the assumption from 1 Kings 14:13 must be that he had reached the age of accountability. We can recognise, however, that the sickness was a very serious one, leaving open the possibility of his death. That was why Jeroboam was so concerned.
1 Kings 14:2
‘ And Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise, I pray you, and disguise yourself, that you be not known to be the wife of Jeroboam, and get yourself to Shiloh. Look, there is Ahijah the prophet, who spoke concerning me that I should be king over this people”
So Jeroboam, aware that he was not looked on by the true prophets of YHWH as acceptable, but equally aware that they alone had the true ability to look behind events, urged his wife to go in disguise to Ahijah the prophet in Shiloh. Ahijah was the prophet who had initially declared that he would become king over Israel (1 Kings 11:37-38), which gave him a certain status in Jeroboam’s eyes.
The Kingdom In Crisis And The Collapse Of An Empire (1 Kings 12:1 to 1 Kings 14:31 ).
The death of Solomon, as always with the death of a king who had ruled powerfully for a long time and had been somewhat autocratic, resulted in hopes being raised among the people that things might now be made better for them. Indeed they appear to have been quite satisfied with the thought of Rehoboam being their king, as long as he would meet them halfway, and they actually gathered at Shechem to negotiate with him for that purpose. It was a real opportunity. Had Rehoboam made concessions, and retained the loyalty of Israel, the combined kingdom would have remained a power, and the tributaries watching in expectation might have hesitated about making trouble. But let Israel and Judah once become divided into two nations, and the driving force and the power base would be lost, and men like Hadad in Edom and Rezon in Damascus (1 Kings 11:14-25) would soon ensure the collapse of the empire. And ever waiting in the wings for the collapse of the empire was the powerful Shishak of Egypt in a revived Egypt, just waiting for his opportunity to break up the trade monopoly which Solomon had built up.
On the death of Solomon Israel were ready to accept Rehoboam as their king, and they assembled at Shechem, which they clearly saw as the local Sanctuary of the northern tribes when it came to such matters. The very choice of Shechem indicated that they were calling on the king to recognise his obligations under the Law of Moses. Shechem was the place to which Israel had first gathered under Joshua for the reading of the Law and the renewal of the covenant (Joshua 8:30-35), in obedience to the command of YHWH through Moses (Deuteronomy 11:29-32; Deuteronomy 27:1-26), and was the place where Joshua himself had renewed the covenant after the initial stages of the invasion were over and Israel were settled in the land (Joshua 24:1-28). It was a recognised place at which YHWH had recorded His Name (suggested by Joshua 8:30-31 with Exodus 20:24). It was the place where the stone of witness had been set up (Joshua 24:26) and it may well be that the regular reading of the covenant required by the Law of Moses took place at Shechem whose two local mountains Ebal and Gerizim, together with the narrow valley that lay between them, formed a natural amphitheatre (see Deuteronomy 27:1-26).
Rehoboam should, of course have recognised that the very choice of this site for their gathering emphasised that Israel saw themselves as separate from Judah when it came to crowning a new king, and were calling on him to renew his obedience to the Law of Moses, and to walking in the ways of YHWH, something which Solomon had signally failed to do. Solomon had previously slipped into the joint kingship so easily, because he had done it while David was still alive, and when the kingdom was at peace. It had thus been easy to forget this independent feeling in Israel, and the fact that kingship in Israel had always been by popular acclamation. It had been so for Saul (1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 11:12-13), for David (2 Samuel 5:1-3) and indeed for Solomon (1 Chronicles 29:22). And we should not forget how delicate had been the situation after Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 19:9-15; 2 Samuel 19:41 to 2 Samuel 20:2). Israel did not see themselves as Judah’s lapdog.
But sadly Rehoboam had been brought up in Solomon’s court, and he had been bred with a sense of arrogance and with the feeling that all Israel and Judah were there to do his bidding. He saw himself as ‘a king like the kings of the nations’. In his view the people were simply there to be whipped into line. And while when he took advice from his father’s older counsellors they gave him good advice as to the need to meet the people half way, he preferred the advice of the younger arrogant aristocrats like himself who assured him that what was needed was to show them who was in charge. So what brought about Rehoboam’s rejection was the arrogance that had become so much a part of Solomon’s lifestyle, and which he had passed on to his son. In contrast, in the case of Jeroboam, his downfall would come about through his turning his back on the covenant and diluting Yahwism, in order, as he saw it, to protect his kingdom. This would result in his destroying the religious heart of Israel, something which would affect all the kings who followed him. Thus both aspects of Solomon’s failures came out in his successors.
Overall Analysis (1 Kings 12:1 to 1 Kings 14:31 ).
a Rehoboam’s Intransigence Alienates Israel (1 Kings 12:1-16).
b Rehoboam Is Rejected By Israel And Jeroboam Becomes King of Israel In Accordance With YHWH’s Covenant (1 Kings 12:17-24).
c In Disobedience Jeroboam Sets Up The Golden Calves, Appoints Alien Priests And Establishes Alien High Places (1 Kings 12:25-32).
d The Alien Altar Is Condemned By A Man Of God (1 Kings 12:33 to 1 Kings 13:10).
c In Disobedience The Man Of God Eats And Drink In Israel And Is Slain (1 Kings 13:11-32).
b Jeroboam’s House Loses The Kingship Because Of The Sins of Jeroboam (1 Kings 13:33 to 1 Kings 14:20).
a The Unhappy Reign Of Rehoboam Which Is The Consequence Of His Intransigence (1 Kings 14:21-31).
Note that in ‘a’ Rehoboam’s reign commenced unhappily and in the parallel it continued unhappily. In ‘b’ Jeroboam received the Kingship through YHWH’s covenant, and in the parallel his house loses the kingship because of his sin. In ‘c’ Jeroboam acts in disobedience against YHWH and in the parallel the man of God acts in disobedience against YHWH. Central in ‘d’ is the condemnation of the alien altar by the man of God.
“ And take with you ten loaves, and cakes, and a cruse of honey, and go to him. He will tell you what will become of the child.”
He also told his wife to take with her a good supply of provisions for the prophet. This was not a bribe, but normal practise. The size of the gift was limited lest Ahijah guess who it was from. We should note in this regard that prophets were regularly consulted on health matters, and other matters of local concern, and it was seemingly considered right to take them food. Compare Samuel in 1 Samuel 9:6-7. Worldly people, however, probably thought that the more generous the gift that they sent, the more generous would be the reply, for that was how they behaved in their own lives. And his hope was that the prophet would give him good news about his young son, and might even heal him.
1 Kings 14:4
‘ And Jeroboam’s wife did so, and arose, and went to Shiloh, and came to the house of Ahijah. Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were set by reason of his age.’
Jeroboam’s wife obediently did what she was told, and rose up and went to Shiloh, to the house of Ahijah the prophet. Ahijah was blind through old age and could not see clearly. Shiloh had by this time been partly restored after its mauling by the Philistines.
1 Kings 14:5
‘ And YHWH said to Ahijah, “See, the wife of Jeroboam comes to enquire of you concerning her son, for he is sick. Thus and thus shall you say to her, for it will be, when she comes in, that she will pretend that she is another woman.” ’
But while Ahijah was at least partially blind physically, he was not spiritually blind, and YHWH still spoke to him. YHWH forewarned him who was coming to see him, and the reason for her visit, and that she would be in disguise. And He also told Ahijah what he was to say to her from YHWH, once she had arrived.
1 Kings 14:6
‘ And it was so, when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, that he said, “Come in, you wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend that you are another? For I am sent to you with heavy tidings”
When the woman entered, no doubt hoping that her disguise would not be penetrated by the blind old prophet, she must have been greatly disconcerted when he welcomed her as the wife of Jeroboam, and asked her why she was pretending to be someone else. (Although he hardly needed to be a prophet to know in fact the reason for the subterfuge). The point behind his question was that she should have known that nothing was hidden from YHWH, the all-seeing. He then informed her that he had heavy tidings for her.
1 Kings 14:7-9
“ Go, tell Jeroboam, Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘Forasmuch as I exalted you from among the people, and made you prince over my people Israel, and tore the kingdom away from the house of David, and gave it to you, and yet you have not been as my servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, to do only what was right in my eyes, but have done evil above all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods, and molten images, to provoke me to anger, and have cast me behind your back,”
The heavy tidings concerned the covenant that YHWH had made with Jeroboam through Ahijah. As the God of Israel YHWH had exalted Jeroboam over Israel, and had made him prince (nagid, YHWH’s war-leader) over them, and had torn a large proportion of David’s kingdom from his house and had given it to Jeroboam. But Jeroboam had not responded in kind. He had not behaved like David, who had kept His commandments and followed Him with all his heart, doing only what was right in His eyes, but had rather done evil more than all who had come before him. He had made for himself ‘other gods’ and molten images in order to provoke YHWH to anger, and as a result he had cast YHWH behind his back. The molten images were, of course, the golden calves. The ‘other gods’ were the result of the syncretism that his actions had brought into Israel’s worship with the result that they were worshipping Baal and Asherah as well, at the same time as they worshipped YHWH, and even probably sometimes worshipped Baal under the name of YHWH. (It was easy to mix up YHWH with Baal nominally, because Baal meant ‘lord’ and YHWH could be addressed as ‘baali’ - ‘my Lord’ - Hosea 3:16-17). But the underlying attributes of the god that they were worshipping were those of Baal, with plenty of ritual sex and no morals. They had cast YHWH and His pure covenant behind their backs.
“Have done evil above all who were before you.” There was a long history in Israel of leaders who had failed YHWH’s people, commencing with Aaron who had made the golden calf, but Jeroboam had out-sinned them all. It should be noted that there is nothing particularly ‘Deuteronomic’ about these words. The ideas are simply generally Mosaic.
“And have cast me behind your back.” Compare Ezekiel 23:35. It indicates total rejection (compare Jesus’ words to Peter, “get you behind me Satan” - Matthew 16:23).
“ Therefore, behold, I will bring evil on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every man-child, him who is shut up and him who is left at large in Israel, and will utterly sweep away the house of Jeroboam, as a man sweeps away dung, until it is all gone.”
As a result YHWH intended to bring evil on the house of Jeroboam. He would cut off from the house of Jeroboam every male child (literally ‘he who relieves himself against the wall’ which every male who was able to stand did), and this would be so whether they were kept under close supervision or were allowed to go about at large. In other words it would apply to male children of all ages. And He would sweep away the house of Jeroboam like a roadsweeper sweeps away a pile of animal dung, until it is all gone, or like a family would sweep the dung out of the part of their houses shared with domestic animals. At that time domestic animals were kept in people’s houses, and together with the asses that bore the wealthy through the streets, they ensured that the streets and lower parts of the houses of cities were regularly covered with animal dung. It was a fitting picture of what the house of Jeroboam had become like.
“ Him who dies of Jeroboam in the city will the dogs eat, and him who dies in the field will the birds of the heavens eat. For YHWH has spoken it.”
Furthermore the deaths of all his household would be violent. Thus if they died in the city their bodies would be left for the scavenger dogs which infested every city to eat. And if they died in the open countryside they would be left to the scavenging birds, for there would be no one to bury them. The picture was a dismal one, but it was the consequence of disobedience, and failing to walk in YHWH’s ways. It would in fact happen almost literally, for when Baasha assassinated Jeroboam’s son he then proceeded to murder all the other members of the royal family (1 Kings 15:29).
1 Kings 14:12-13
“ Arise you therefore, get you to your house, and when your feet enter the city, the child will die, and all Israel will mourn for him, and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam will come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing towards YHWH, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam.”
Furthermore he had no good news for them even as regards their ailing son. For as soon as she returned home her son would die. But he pointed out that he would be the fortunate one, for he alone of Jeroboam’s sons would be properly mourned and buried. He alone would come to a respectable grave. And that was because there was that in him, alone of all the house of Jeroboam, which pleased YHWH. Paradoxically then YHWH was in fact looking after his best interests in letting him die. He was doing it because of His love for him. While there was at this stage no inkling of the resurrection, David had made declarations in the Psalms that suggested some kind of continuing existence (Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 24:6), and that alone really makes sense of this promise. True believers knew that they were in the hand of God.
“ Moreover YHWH will raise him up a king over Israel, who will cut off the house of Jeroboam that day. But what? Even now.”
Furthermore it was YHWH’s intention to raise up a king over Israel who would cut off the house of Jeroboam ‘in that day’. In other words, when in the course of events Jeroboam’s house was smitten by a claimant to the throne, they were to recognise that it was of YHWH. For in the end all history is in His hands.
“But what? Even now.” The simplest explanation of these abrupt words is that they signify ‘But what shall we say? He has done it even now’. In other words YHWH would not only do it in some unknown future, but was even at this time bringing it about.
“ For YHWH will smite Israel, as a reed is shaken in the water, and he will root up Israel out of this good land which he gave to their fathers, and will scatter them beyond the River, because they have made their Asherim, provoking YHWH to anger.”
What was more, in coming days YHWH would smite Israel in the same way as a reed bends before the wind in the water, and would root them out of their good land and scatter them Beyond The River (in Mesopotamia). And He would do this because they had made their Asherah-images, thus provoking YHWH to anger. To be scattered ‘beyond the River’ was to be cast out of the land which YHWH had given to His people (Exodus 23:31; Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4; etc.). This was the fate which YHWH had constantly warned them about (Leviticus 18:28; Leviticus 20:22; Leviticus 26:33; Leviticus 26:38-39; Deuteronomy 28:64-65; Deuteronomy 29:27). It was simply taking God at His word.
The Asherah may have been images of the fertility goddess, or wooden poles which represented her, which were found in every syncretistic high place. Either way the fact that they were found in the sanctuaries of Israel demonstrated how far worship of the Canaanite gods and goddesses had been introduced (see Exodus 34:13; Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 12:3 where such things were to be destroyed).
The idea of being scattered in Mesopotamia also presented the horrifying picture of being taken so far away from their land that they would never return. Local prisoners of war, or those taken captives as slaves by neighbouring countries, always had a hope of restoration in one way or another, especially as it was part of YHWH’s future inheritance, but at this stage of history being taken Beyond the River meant going somewhere where there was no hope of release at the hands of an unknown people. They would be away from God’s inheritance. It was seen as the worst fate imaginable. The point behind this was that because they themselves had involved themselves in the Canaanite religion, they would be treated like the Canaanites should have been and driven from the land into a place from which they would not return. No particular foe was necessarily in mind, but no doubt news of the powerful states to the north had reached Israel through traders, and it would bring back to mind the examples from their own history when such a thing had happened. They knew from their history stories of the kings who had invaded from Beyond the River in the time of Abraham, kings who had taken captive slaves with them, and they further knew of the invasion by Cushan-rishathaim in Judges 3:8-11 which had troubled their land for so long. They therefore had something to go on.
“ And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he has sinned, and with which he has made Israel to sin.”
And this would happen because YHWH had ‘given up Israel’. And it would be because of the sins of Jeroboam in which both he and Israel had partaken. There was to be no doubt of its root cause.
1 Kings 14:17
‘ And Jeroboam’s wife arose, and departed, and came to Tirzah, and as she came to the threshold of the house, the child died.’
No doubt shaken by what she had been told Jeroboam’s wife arose and returned home to Tirzah, mentioned here for the first time, but which had clearly become Jeroboam’s place of residence. It would later be Baasha’s capital city (1 Kings 15:33). And as soon as she arrived there and was approaching her house the child died. It was a seal on the doom of the house of Jeroboam.
1 Kings 14:18
‘ And all Israel buried him, and mourned for him, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke by his servant Ahijah the prophet.’
But this son at least died in honour. All Israel buried him and mourned him, just as YHWH had said through His prophet Ahijah. He would be the last member of the house of Jeroboam to be respectfully honoured and mourned. It is noteworthy that we are not now told where Jeroboam was buried.
Summary of The Acts Of Jeroboam, And Of His Reign And Death (1 Kings 14:19-20 ).
We have here the usual stereotyped summary which, with variations, will sum up of the reign of each king, as it did the reign of Solomon (1 Kings 11:41-43). Jeroboam’s reign could be summed up in the fact that ‘he warred and reigned’. But the sad thing was that his ‘warring’ was mainly against his brothers in Judah (1 Kings 14:30; compare 1 Kings 15:6). If only he had sought YHWH and the way of peace all this might have been avoided. As it was it would bring Israel to its knees.
And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel (1 Kings 14:19).
And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years (1 Kings 14:20 a).
And he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his stead (1 Kings 14:20 b).
1 Kings 14:19
‘ And the rest of the acts of Jeroboam, how he warred, and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel.’
Jeroboam’s reign was taken up with ‘warring and reigning’, typical of a petty king of the day. The warring would appear to have been mainly against Israel, a situation which continued both throughout the reign of Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:30; 1 Kings 15:6), and that of Abiyah and Asa. The only hope of peace between them had ceased with Jeroboam’s apostasy. There was now no covenant tie which might have united them, and YHWH was for the present at odds with Israel. Thus YHWH had no more interest in Jeroboam. He had written him off. The recording of the details of his life was left in the hands of secular historians, in a history that is unknown to us but was clearly known to the author.
1 Kings 14:20
‘ And the days which Jeroboam reigned were two and twenty years, and he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned instead of him.’
His reign lasted twenty two years, after which he died and ‘slept with his fathers’. No information is given about his burial, something normally mentioned. It may indicate that he was seen as in disgrace (compare the emphasis on his ‘good’ son’s burial in 1 Kings 14:18). And he was followed by his son Nadab whose reign would soon come abruptly to an end.
Nadab was probably an abbreviation for Nabadiah, meaning ‘YHWH has freely given’. It appeared in one of the Lachish letters.
At the commencement of his reign Jeroboam had been presented with a huge opportunity. God had been willing to make with him a covenant similar to His covenant with David. Had he walked rightly with the Lord his future, and that of Israel, would have been bright. But instead he replaced God in his life with a religion of his own inventing. He ignored the Scriptures. That is why both he and his kingdom were lost.
The Reign Of Rehoboam of Judah c. 930-913 BC (1 Kings 14:21-31 ).
The sad thing about Rehoboam’s reign would be its extreme bankruptcy. He reigned over a country which went to the excess in religious apostasy and sin, he saw all his treasures which had been built up by David and Solomon stripped away, and he spent much of his time fighting with Jeroboam and thus weakening Judah. And he did it while ruling in the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there, chosen because it had been the city chosen by His servant David. But there is one thing indicated in his favour. While the country appear to have gone wild over false religion Rehoboam himself is not said to have been implicated and indeed is said to have worshipped regularly in the Temple. (The Chronicler is not quit so lacking in criticism, but even he does not condemn Rehoboam wholeheartedly).
The one thing that appears to have saved Rehoboam’s reign from being as catastrophic as Jeroboam’s was the true worship maintained in the Temple, which would partly explain the comment about him reigning in the city where YHWH had set His Name. It would appear from this that initially the future of Yahwism in Judah was being secured by the true worship of the Temple, the place where YHWH had set His Name, and in both Judah and Israel by the activities of the prophets, who certainly in Israel must have arranged sanctuaries at which those who were faithful to YHWH could truly worship. Problems would therefore begin to arise in Judah when the Temple itself went astray. But that would not be for some time.
From this point on each reign will begin with an opening formula similar in general to that which introduces Rehoboam’s reign, and the order in which kings are dealt with from now on will be based on whether they commence reigning during the reign of their counterpart in the other country who has already been introduced. Thus Rehoboam’s son Abiyam will follow Rehoboam, because Jeroboam was still reigning in Israel when he began to reign, and Abiyam’s son (Rehoboam’s grandson), Asa will then follow, for the same reason. Jeroboam will then die during Asa’s reign and so Jeroboam’s son will be dealt with next because he came to the throne while Asa was reigning, followed by Baasha, Zimri, Omri and Ahab, all kings of Israel, because all began reigning during the reign of Asa. Asa then died during the reign of Ahab so that Jehoshaphat of Judah will be dealt with after Ahab, because he began reigning during the reign of Ahab. And so it will go on. The result is that we have a continual, if imperfect, co-relation between what is happening in the two countries around the same time.
a And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there, and his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess (1 Kings 14:21).
b And Judah did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, above all that their fathers had done (1 Kings 14:22).
c For they also built for themselves high places, and pillars, and Asherim, on every high hill, and under every green tree (1 Kings 14:23).
d And there were also sodomites in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which YHWH drove out before the children of Israel (1 Kings 14:24).
e And it came about in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and he took away the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house. He even took away all, and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made (1 Kings 14:25-26).
d And king Rehoboam made as replacements shields of brass, and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house (1 Kings 14:27).
c And it was so, that, as often as the king went into the house of YHWH, the guard bore them, and brought them back into the guard-chamber (1 Kings 14:28).
b Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah? And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually (1 Kings 14:29-30).
a And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess. And Abiyam his son reigned instead of him (1 Kings 14:31).
Note that in ‘a’ we have details of Rehoboam and his mother, and in the parallel we have the same. In ‘b’ we are informed about the acts of Judah and their sins, and in the parallel we have reference to the acts of Rehoboam, and especially his act in warring with Israel. In ‘c’ Judah went to excess in idolatry and false worship outside Jerusalem while in Jerusalem the king regularly visited the house of YHWH. In ‘d’ the land was defiled with adulterated behaviour, and in the parallel the king’s own ceremonial equipment was adulterated. Centrally in ‘e’ we have the fact that Jerusalem and the Temple were emptied of their treasures by Shishak.
1 Kings 14:21
‘ And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there, and his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess.
After his bad start Rehoboam continued his rule over Judah. He was forty one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for seventeen years in Jerusalem, ‘the city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel to put His Name there’. From this point on the reference for other kings of Judah will be shortened to ‘in Jerusalem’ but it is probable that we are intended each time to add these words on in our mind. The emphasis is basically on the fact that they are ruling in the city of David, the chosen of YHWH, for the reason why YHWH ‘chose’ Jerusalem was because of David’s interest in it. Jerusalem was blessed for David’s sake. We must never allow Jerusalem to replace David in our thinking. It was chosen because it was David’s city, and it was because David introduced the Ark into it that His Name was there (2 Samuel 6:2). Rehoboam was therefore to be seen as ruling in it as the new David.
“And his mother” s name was Naamah the Ammonitess.’ With rare exceptions the introductory formulae for the kings of Judah regularly refer to the name of the king’s mother, thus confirming that the king’s blood line was genuine. It emphasised that he was born of a known wife of the previous Davidic king. Naamah may well have been one of the wives who led Solomon astray. She was no doubt a treaty wife. Rehoboam was thus half Ammonite.
Others see the mention of the mother’s name as signifying that she had special status and authority at court as ‘the queen mother’.
“The city which YHWH had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there.” The emphasis here is first on the fact that Jerusalem now housed the Central Sanctuary, which was where His Name was set because it contained the Ark of the Covenant, although it should be noted that it is the city that is being emphasised, not the Temple. The statement is based on Deuteronomy 12:5 which referred to wherever YHWH set up the Central Sanctuary, initially at Shechem and Shiloh. But there was no mention of a city there. The emphasis was simply on ‘the place’ where the Sanctuary was set up. So the idea here is that, because he was the new David, Rehoboam reigned in the city which had been chosen by YHWH with a view to pleasing His servant David, and where YHWH now dwelt with the king as His regent. Compare 1 Kings 11:13 which is the first indication in Kings that Jerusalem had been chosen, and there the idea is closely connected with YHWH’s covenant with David. The emphasis is thus not on the Temple, but on the YHWH/David partnership.
1 Kings 14:22
‘ And Judah did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, above all that their fathers had done.’
Regularly in Kings the king’s reign is introduced with the words ‘he did evil (good) in the sight of YHWH’, thus we must see a deliberate distinction here between Rehoboam and Judah. It was Judah as a whole, but not Rehoboam, who are seen as doing evil in the sight of YHWH. He lost control over the country’s religious behaviour, but at least he retained his own loyalty to YHWH (1 Kings 14:28), at least superficially. It was the one bright spot in his reign. The Chronicler, however, states that ‘he did evil because he did not prepare his heart to seek YHWH’ (2 Chronicles 12:14). While at the beginning of his reign he warmed towards YHWH, when the priests and Levites who were in Israel made their way to Jerusalem, his love again began to grow cold. It was revived again for a short while as a result of the invasion by Shishak, but then it again grew nominal so that he no longer prepared his heart to seek YHWH. But it is never suggested, even by the Chronicler, that he worshipped at the high places (see 2 Chronicles 11:13 to 2 Chronicles 12:14).
On the other hand the country as a whole apostasised. Solomon’s behaviour (not Rehoboam’s) was coming home to roost. So Judah did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, and they provoked Him to jealousy with their sins and idolatry to a far greater extent than their fathers. From now on Yahwism would struggle to maintain its purity in a land which had succumbed to syncretism with Canaanite religion. This did not mean that they had ceased to worship in YHWH’s name. It meant that they were using a combination of Yahwism and Baalism to the detriment of Yahwism. They hoped to retain YHWH’s favour while at the same time enjoying what Baalism offered, a religion free of moral demands and offering sexual licence. We can see now why YHWH had wanted the Canaanites either to be driven out, or to be slaughtered. Judah was now experiencing the consequences of compromise.
1 Kings 14:23
‘ For they also built for themselves high places, and pillars, and Asherim, on every high hill, and under every green tree,’
We are given full details of how far they went. They filled the land with adulterated sanctuaries, which included all the Canaanite paraphernalia. The ‘high places’ were raised altars (Leviticus 26:30; Numbers 33:50), which were forbidden in Israel (Exodus 20:26). The ‘pillars’ represented male gods (Deuteronomy 12:3), probably in this case usually Baal, which is why they were frowned on. (Pillars erected to the glory of YHWH were not frowned on - Genesis 28:18; Genesis 31:45; Exodus 24:4). The Asherim were the images or poles which represented the fertility goddess. And these were set up in places seen as sacred, on high hills and under green trees (compare Deuteronomy 12:2). Religion abounded but it was no longer pleasing to YHWH. The essentials of the covenant had been stripped way, and the true sanctuaries were being sidelined. Every man did what was right in his own eyes and YHWH was diminished.
1 Kings 14:24
‘ And there were also sodomites in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which YHWH drove out before the children of Israel.’
Indeed the situation had deteriorated even further, for religious prostitutes of both sexes were introduced. It was all part of the fertility rites. It was the popular method of obtaining good harvests without having to resort to good living. Thus they entered into ‘all the abominations’ of the Canaanites, the abominations because of which YHWH had insisted on the Canaanites being driven out of the land. And Rehoboam seemingly let it happen without making any effort to interfere. Perhaps his confidence had gone as a result of the fiasco with Israel, so that he no longer dared to try to lay down the Law, preferring rather to enjoy himself in Jerusalem.
1 Kings 14:25-26
‘ And it came about in the fifth year of king Rehoboam, that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem, and he took away the treasures of the house of YHWH, and the treasures of the king’s house. He even took away all, and he took away all the shields of gold which Solomon had made.’
In view of what is written above the invasion by Shishak of Egypt in 925 BC was clearly intended to be seen as God’s judgment coming on the land of Judah. It was also revealing the folly of Solomon for putting such effort into amassing gold. His efforts would have been far better spent in training up his son to walk rightly in the sight of YHWH. Solomon cannot escape blame for what Rehoboam had become. So it was both a judgment and a retribution on Solomon and his son.
Shishak must have chuckled with delight when he saw his protégé Jeroboam made king of Israel, and then the two countries battling with each other. He had bided his time, waiting for them to weaken each other, and now he was ready to strike. He came with massive forces and his aim was twofold, firstly to secure the trade routes for Egypt, and secondly in order to obtain booty. He would die a year later.
Information about his invasion is found in the temple of Amun in Thebes. There he listed the towns from which he extracted tribute in Judah and Israel, and it was a long list. He first sacked Gezer on the border, and then moved into Judah towards Jerusalem city by city until, when he had reached Gibeon, Rehoboam sued for peace and paid him a huge ransom in the terms described above. The treasures that Solomon had built up had only been safe while the country was strong enough to hold on to them, and due to Rehoboam’s folly it was no longer strong enough to resist a revived Egypt. Shishak also invaded deeply into the Negev in the South, possibly as far as Ezion-Geber, hitting at the trade routes there, and once Jerusalem had yielded, he advanced from Gibeon into Israel and received tribute from many Israelite cities. We do not know in fact whether Jeroboam ceded the tribute peacefully, in gratitude for Shishak’s previous assistance, or whether Shishak had to sack the cities in Israel as well. There are indications that suggest that the former might have been so, but included among the list of Israelite cities who paid tribute were Penuel and Mahanaim in the Transjordan. This was then followed by Taanach, Megiddo and Shunem in the west as Shishak began to make his way back to Egypt along the coastal plain, laden with spoils. A stele belonging to Shishak was discovered in Megiddo, and we know that it was certainly partially sacked around this time. Megiddo was a huge city and would not yield up its riches easily. Shishak then appears to have set up his statue in Megiddo, the plinth of which has been discovered.
But none of this is mentioned in Kings. The only thing that was of interest to the author was the loss of the treasures of David and Solomon, because this demonstrated God’s judgment on Rehoboam (and on the deceased Solomon). It will be noted that concentration is not on the Temple treasure. Equal mention is given of the spoiling of the king’s house. This was not about the Temple. It was about Rehoboam.
1 Kings 14:27
‘ And king Rehoboam made as replacements shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the captains of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house.’
And the result was that, having lost his ceremonial shields of gold, a humiliated Rehoboam had to make shields of bronze in order to retain his fading glory. The ‘glory’ of Judah had been lost because of the behaviour of the people at the high places, and the consequence was that YHWH took away its shields of gold, replacing them with shields of bronze. Its glory was thus twice adulterated. And the result was that the shields no longer needed the security of the House of the Forest of Lebanon, but were kept in the guard house.
1 Kings 14:28
‘ And it was so, that, as often as the king went into the house of YHWH, the guard bore them, and brought them back into the guard-chamber.’
So when in future Rehoboam went into the house of YHWH to worship, there was still a splendid ceremonial display as his bodyguard bore the shields of bronze which glistened in the sun, but all knew that the splendour was tarnished because of YHWH’s judgment on Rehoboam and on Jerusalem.
1 Kings 14:29
‘ Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam, and all that he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah?’
Having dealt with what mattered to him, because of what it revealed about YHWH’s dealings with Judah, the prophetic author now referred his readers to the chronicles of the kings of Judah if they wanted further information about what Rehoboam had done. He was not interested in the secular details of the history of a king who did not concern himself with obeying YHWH.
1 Kings 14:30
‘ And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually.’
One thing, however, he does stress and that is that there was a continual state of warfare between Rehoboam and Jeroboam. This may indicate that they fortified their frontiers, and bristled at each other over them, with the occasional incident occurring, and their not allowing any movement of people between them, or even that they made continual forays into each others territory for punitive purposes without the actual intention of a full scale invasion. It would be many years before the two countries could live side by side amicably. The hurt had gone too deep. But the result of this state of affairs would be that the people of Israel were discouraged from coming to the Temple as the Central Sanctuary, in order to worship YHWH in accordance with the covenant. That was another thing that YHWH had against Rehoboam.
1 Kings 14:31
‘ And Rehoboam slept with his fathers, and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and his mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonitess. And Abiyam his son reigned instead of him.’
And eventually Rehoboam died peacefully, and ‘slept with his fathers’, and he was buried with his fathers in the city of David. Note the emphasis on Jerusalem as ‘the city of David’. It was because of that that it had been chosen by YHWH.
The repetition of his mother’s name, which is unusual in Kings, was probably an indication of the author’s unhappiness with the fact that Solomon had married an Ammonitess. The Ammonites were one of the peoples excluded from becoming true worshipping Israelites (Deuteronomy 23:3), and his Ammonite wives had led him astray. But finally we learn that Abiyam his son reigned in his place. The Davidic dynasty continued.
The name Abiyam means ‘my father is Yam’ (see also 1 Kings 15:1; 1 Kings 15:7). Yam was a Canaanite god of widespread influence, which goes with Abiyam’s mother being an Ammonitess. Elsewhere his name is said to have been Abi-yah, ‘my father is YHWH (e.g. 2 Chronicles 13:1). This can be seen as a conversion of the previous name in order to remove its disgrace. It may have taken place when he came to the throne.
Rehoboam’s life is a warning for us to be considerate of other people’s needs. If only Rehoboam had ‘loved his neighbour as himself’ what a difference it would have made to Israel’s history. We need to recognise that unwise words and attitudes can rebound on us both in the present, and in our future lives. Better not to speak than to speak foolishly. It is also a warning to us to ensure that when we seek advice we do it in the right quarters. Rehoboam had had the good advice, he just did not listen to it.
The Early Kings Of Judah And Israel (1 Kings 15:1 to 1 Kings 16:28 )
There now follows information concerning the reigns of seven kings, each of which is dealt with briefly in order to bring out the lesson that the prophetic writer is interested in. The first two kings were kings of Judah. The first, Abiyam, shared the condemnation of Rehoboam, but the author emphasised that for David’s sake YHWH would establish for him a lamp in Jerusalem. He was a warning against compromise and half-heartedness. The second, Asa, turned out truly to be a lamp for he did what was right in the eyes of YHWH, and his heart was right towards YHWH. Nevertheless due to his failing to fully trust YHWH he lost the treasures that he had built up, and ended up diseased in his feet. He was a warning against the danger of not fully trusting with all his heart. Things seemed, however, to be generally promising in Judah.
Due to Asa’s long reign the next five kings were kings of Israel. The picture in that case was one of continual decline as things got worse and worse. It began with Nadab who followed in the way of his father, and was assassinated as a result of God’s judgment on Jeroboam, continued with Baasha who not only continued in the way of Jeroboam but also sought to prevent Israelites from entering Judah in order to worship YHWH, and was continually belligerent towards Judah, with the result that his son, who followed in his ways, was also assassinated for the same reason. The man who carried out the assassination was Zimri, a chariot commander, who lasted only seven days, and after a period of civil war he was followed by Omri, Israel’s commander-in-chief who not only walked in the way of Jeroboam but also began to lay a greater emphasis on the open worship of Baal. Thus no king of Israel concerned himself with purifying the worship of YHWH, but instead contributed to the continuing deterioration. Indeed had it not been for the rise of Elijah faith in YHWH in Israel may well have died out.
The Short Reign Of Abiyam, King of Judah c. 913-911/910 BC (1 Kings 15:1-8).
The Long Reign Of Asa, King of Judah c. 911/910-870 BC (1 Kings 15:9-24).
The Short Reign Of Nadab, King Of Israel c.910-908 BC (1 Kings 15:25-31).
The Longer Reign Of Baasha, The Usurper Of Israel c.908-885 BC (1 Kings 15:32 to 1 Kings 16:7).
The Short Reign Of Elah, King of Israel c. 885-884 BC (1 Kings 16:8-14).
The Seven Day Reign Of Zimri, King Of Israel c. 884 BC (1 Kings 16:15-20).
The Longer Reign Of Omri, King of Israel c. 884-872 BC (1 Kings 16:21-28).