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Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary Preacher's Homiletical
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ phc/ 1-kings-14.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 1 Kings 14". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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THE REIGNS OF JEROBOAM AND REHOBOAM
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1 Kings 14:1. Abijah, the son of Jeroboam—Natural heir to the kingdom. His sickness, therefore, seemed to imperil the continuance of Jeroboam’s house.
1 Kings 14:2. There is Ahijah the prophet—He was appropriately selected, because Ahijah was the prophet who, in Solomon’s days, pledged the kingdom to Jeroboam (chap. 1 Kings 11:29). And since Ahijah promised him a “sure house” (1 Kings 11:38), though conditional upon his piety, he sent to him to learn how this illness accorded with the prediction: he desired the rewards, though he forsook the course, of righteousness.
1 Kings 14:3. Take with thee loaves, cracknels, and honey—These were gifts which a humble peasant woman would take, and accorded with the disguised appearance of the king’s wife. The “ten loaves “were more probably a kind of hearth cake—נִקֻּדִּים, κολλυριδες (Sept.) Crustula (Vulg.).
1 Kings 14:4. Could not see, for his eyes were set—Keil thinks that he suffered from “grey cataracts,” resulting from the decay of the optic nerves through age, as in the case of Eli (1 Samuel 4:15).
1 Kings 14:9. Done evil above all that were before thee—Inasmuch has he had established idolatry as a legalised “state institution.” Hast cast Me behind thy back—the most forcible expression possible, signifying deliberate insulte and contempt of Jehovah. It only occurs again in Ezekiel 23:35, q.v.
1 Kings 14:10. Cut off from Jeroboam him that, &c.—“An expression no doubt originally used of dogs” (Lange), and therefore a contemptuous description of ignominious persons. Only need of those in great disfavour in parallel Scriptures. Keil, however, differs from this exposition of the phrase, and regards it as a forceful and figurative expression of “extermination of a family to the last man.” Him that is shut up and left—An alliterative phrase—עָצוּר וְעָזב—probably meaning those under guardian; not of age. Keil suggests, him who is left to himself—unmarried. Thenius renders the whole sentence thus: “All the male descendants of the king, even the minors also,” were threatened with destruction.
1 Kings 14:14. Cut off the house of Jeroboam that day; but what? even now. “That day,” זֶה הַיּוֹם; this, to-day, viz., cut off the house of Jeroboam, this very day, in the death of his son. “But what? Even now”—וּמֶה גַּם־עַתָּה. And what is happening even now? or, but what [say I]? Even now [the usurper is raised up]. See how truly this was a fact (chap. 1 Kings 15:27).
1 Kings 14:15. Made their groves—Their Asherahs; statues of the female deity elsewhere called Ashtarte.
1 Kings 14:17. Tirzah—Now Taltise, a scene of eminent beauty (Song Song of Solomon 6:4), chosen as a scene of royal residence on this account, situate about three hours’ jonrney east of Samaria.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 14:1-20
CALAMITIES are now fast closing round and accumulating upon the head of the impenitent Jeroboam. The power he has defied and provoked must make itself felt; and the righteousness of the Divine mercy, so long and so often despised, must be vindicated. The crisis of his fate is approaching. Yet another and last effort is made to save him. As the coming tempest gives signals of its advance, and reaches the climax of its fury by graduated stages, so the judgments of heaven do not overtake the wicked without pre-admonition and ample opportunity for repentance.
I. That Divine judgments are not sent without due warning.
1. This warning is repeated. “At that time” (1 Kings 14:1). The force of this phrase is to connect the narrative which follows with Jeroboam’s persistence in his evil courses. The withered hand, the rent altar, the solemn message of the mysterious prophet of Judah and his melancholy fate, were so many warnings to the impenitent king. To all these yet another is added; and the event here related is the first judgment upon Jeroboam for his obduracy, the beginning of the cutting off of his house from the face of the earth. God never wearies in His efforts to save the sinner: His voice is ever calling him to repentance.
2. This warning appeals to the tenderest human feelings (1 Kings 14:2-3). In this instance it appeals to the instinct of parental love, a love awakened and intensified by the immediate danger of a sick and dying child. The darling child is often snatched away as a warning to the family. As a solitary flower is more lovely because of the barrenness that surrounds it, and as a little light is heightened in brilliancy by its darkened background, so the simple piety of a child is all the more suggestive in its warning and teaching when discovered in the midst of prevalent iniquity.
3. This warning is often given by the same person who has before uttered promises of good (1 Kings 14:4-6, comp. with 1 Kings 11:29-39). Ahijah, who had before spoken words of promise and of hope, was commissioned to convey “heavy tidings” of coming judgment. This fact should have led Jeroboam to reflection, and to pause before he took the next fatal step to self-abandonment and ruin. The faithful minister must speak of judgment, as well as of mercy (1 Samuel 15:26-28).
II. That Divine judgments are explicitly declared.
1. The reasons for the Divine judgments are given (1 Kings 14:7-9). Jeroboam had been exalted with honour, power, and greatness, even to the detriment and humbling of the favourite tribe of Judah; and he had treated the gracious intentions of Jehovah with colossal ingratitude and unexampled impiety. Whatever idolatries the Israelites had been guilty of previously, whether in the earlier or the later times, by their worship of Baal and Ashtoreth, of the groves, of the gods of Syria, Moab, and Ammon (Judges 2:13; Judges 3:7; Judges 6:25; Judges 10:6; 1 Kings 11:33), yet hitherto none of their rulers had set up the idolatrous worship of ephods, teraphim, and the like (Judges 18:17), as a substitute for the true religion, or sought to impose an idolatrous system on the nation. Gideon’s ephod “became a snare contrarily to his intentions (Judges 8:27). Solomon’s high places were private-built for the use of his wives, and not designed to attract the people. Jeroboam was the first ruler who set himself to turn the Israelites away from the true worship and establish a poor counterfeit of it, which he strove to make, and succeeded in making, the religion of the great mass of his subjects. Of all this, he is plainly reminded when the Divine judgments are declared against him.
2. The nature of the Divine judgments is stated.
(1.) It is personal (1 Kings 14:10-14). Jeroboam and his house shall be cut off. The prophet associates no dignity with any portion of Jeroboam’s doomed house. He sees in it only the vile slave, or the slaughtered victim of Divine judgment, whether already a prisoner, or still fighting to keep free from the hands of the foe, or the lone few that may have escaped death during the siege. They suffer the horrible punishment threatened in the law to the impious transgressor (Deuteronomy 28:26), and the foulest indignity that a conquered and slaughtered foe could be exposed to (comp. 1 Kings 5:11, with 1 Samuel 17:46). He who transmits sin to his descendants involves them in the punishment connected with its continued commission.
(2). It is national (1 Kings 14:15-16). Here is the first positive announcement of the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles as a punishment of Israel’s sins. Already, in earlier times, had a rooting up and scattering of the people been threatened in cases of disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:63; Deuteronomy 29:27; Joshua 23:16); but Ahijah is the first of that long line of prophets that hold up exile beyond the river Euphrates as a certainly coming woe. The people that share in a monarch’s sin will inevitably share in its punishment.
3. The agent of Divine judgments is mentioned (1 Kings 14:14). This king was Baasha; and we learn the fulfilment of the prophetic threat from chap. 1 Kings 15:27-30. The agents of Divine vengeance are already stationed all down the lines of future human history.
III. That Divine judgments are inevitable (1 Kings 14:17-20). Already the judgment had begun in the death of this innocent and pious son. Jeroboam soon followed, struck down by a dire disease which dragged him down to a miserable death (2 Chronicles 13:20). Destruction often overtakes sinners in the midst of their career. Death pays no more respect to palaces than to the clay-built hut. No power in earth or hell can avert the righteous punishment of wrong-doing.
1. Ruin is not far from a kingdom when righteousness is expelled and iniquity triumphant.
2. We cannot plead the examples of others, however high in office and power, to screen our sins from the Divine judgments.
3. A genuine repentance is the only protection against threatened judgments.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
1 Kings 14:1-20. Jeroboam in need and in distress. I. He is only concerned about the taking away of the need and the lifting off of the punishment, not in the renunciation of his sin and the conversion of the heart, which should have been the result of his need, as it is the case now with so many. II. He seeks consolation and help, not at the hands of his false priests and spiritual hirelings, whom he himself did not trust, but from the prophet, about whom he did not trouble himself after he had nothing to ask. Thus it is always. In need and necessity unbelievers and the children of this world seek for consolation and comfort from a spiritual preacher, and despise the finery of the hirelings who care only for the wool, and not for the sheep. III. He does not himself apply to the prophet, because he has an evil conscience, and he sends his wife in a disguise, for before the world he does not wish to be viewed as one who cares much for prophets. This is the folly of the wise of this world, that they suppose they can deceive God as they deceive men. But the Lord sees what is concealed in the darkness, and gives to every one what he has deserved.—Lange.
1–16 The sight of the sick boy whom he cared for brought back, perhaps, the thought of himself when he had still youthful freshness and hope, when he felt the wrongs which Solomon was inflicting upon the land, and dreamed that he might be its deliverer. And with these thoughts would come the recollection of the man who had told him how, if he walked in right ways, God would make him a sure house. A sad and profitable reflection if he had paused to dwell upon it. But the lying habit of mind which he had contracted by converse with the priests of the high places only urged him to consider how he could bribe Ahijah to tell him something about the child which he would like to hear. This fragment of Ahijah’s history marks out with much clearness the office of a prophet in Israel. Living under the brilliant government of Solomon, where all had the outward face of prosperity and continuance—living under the tyranny of Jeroboam, where all was new and revolutionary—he had still to say, “There is an eternal order which cannot be violated. Whosoever defies it will bring ruin upon himself and upon his house. God is; a power which sets Him at nought and substitutes changeable things in His place, cannot abide. It may be appointed to punish an evil which has been working secretly; it will last its hour; but it is doomed. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.” The prophets could speak this word knowing it to be true. And they could speak another which was more terrible. They could say, “Israel must suffer for Jeroboam’s sins. Not by an arbitrary decree, which punishes one for the crimes of another; but because the heart of the people has gone along with the ruler; because a ruler embodies it himself, and presents in open act the temper and spirit of those whom he rules; because if they would be saved from the consequences of his evil doings, they must turn to the everlasting King. This is an universal principle which comes out with fresh power in each stage of Jewish history.—Maurice.
1 Kings 14:1-6. Anxious forebodings.
1. Arise from a consciousness of wrong-doing.
2. Aggravated by family affliction.
3. Cannot be concealed by the cleverest disguise.
4. Are only too surely realised.
1 Kings 14:1. When the threatening, warning word of God bears no fruit, God at last sends the cross, especially the cross in the household, to humble us, to bring us to a knowledge of our sins, and to lead us to the cross of Christ. God generally lays hold upon men in those respects where it is mostly grievous to them (2 Samuel 12:14; John 4:47).—Starke.
1 Kings 14:2-3. Extremity draws Jeroboam’s thoughts to the prophet, whom else he had not cared to remember. Certainly his heart despised those base priests of his places; neither could he trust either to the gods or to the clergy of his own making; his conscience rests upon the fidelity of that man whose doctrine he had forsaken. How did the idolater strive against his own heart, while he inwardly despised those whom he professed to honour, and inwardly honoured them whom he professed to despise. Wicked breasts are false to themselves, neither trusting to their own choice, nor making choice of that which they may dare to trust. But, O! the gross folly mixed with the craft of wickedness. Could Jeroboam think that the prophet could know the event of his son’s disease, and did he think he could not know his wife’s disguise? The one was present, the other future; this was but wrapt up in a clout, that event was wrapt in the counsel of God; yet this politic head presumes that the greater shall be revealed, where the lesser shall be hid. There was never a wicked man that was not infatuate, and in nothing more than in those things wherein he hoped most to transcend the reach of others.—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 14:2. Jeroboam did not wish to be seen having anything to do with the prophet by any one. Worldly people are ashamed to make it known that they believe in anything, even if it be a superstitious faith. If God send thee necessity and distress, take no bye-ways, but go to Him and pour out thine heart before Him; He hears all who call upon Him, all who earnestly cry unto Him. Disguise thyself, that no one mark who and what thou art. This is the bad advice which the world gives for the conduct of life, and which passes current with it as the true wisdom thereof. How social life is vitiated by this sin, by the endeavour to seem before people rather than to be—often it is like a masquerade! It is even more deceived by actions, by mien, and manner, than by words. The art of disguise corrupts man in the profoundest ground of his being, and transforms him into an incarnate lie.—Lange.
He would not have it known in Israel that his queen went on such an errand. It would show that neither his calves nor his self-made priests could help him in the time of trouble. His heart had become so infatuated and clouded by his false worship as to imagine that Jehovah’s prophet might not detect his guile. He dared not meet the old prophet, but sent his wife, for a sense of his own sins admonished him that he deserved condemnation, and would receive it if he went in person to Ahijah.—Whedon.
1 Kings 14:3-4. The little bit of faith which worldly people often exhibit is but part of their selfishness. The fore-knowledge of the future in the affairs of daily life man would gladly possess, because he will not yield himself in faith to the will of God. Hence flow often superstition, fortune-telling, dream interpretation, astrology, both among the heathens, as well as among Christians. The gift of God neither should nor can be sold or bought for money. As a rule, unbelief is bound with superstition. Jeroboam did not believe when God spoke to him by word and deed, and yet he believed that by means of a few loaves and cakes he could persuade God to reveal the future to him. The history of religion in modern times confirms and illustrates this.—Cramer.
1 Kings 14:3. Henry well calls attention to the “notion of fatality” evinced in this enquiry of Jeroboam, and also in that of Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:2), and that of Benhadad (2 Kings 8:8). They enquire simply what the end will be, not what means they should use for recovery.—Whedon.
1 Kings 14:4-6. The wife of Jeroboam before the prophet.
1. She means to deceive the aged blind prophet by a disguise, but the Lord gives him sight (Psalms 146:8). He gives strength to the weary, and power to the feeble. The Lord ever gives sight to his true servants, so that the world cannot deceive and blind them.
2. She hopes, by her present, to secure the desired answer; but at the hour, the Lord gives him the word he shall speak. It is the spirit of God who speaks through him (Matthew 10:19). A true servant of God proclaims the word of truth to every one, without respect of persons, no matter how hard it be for him. This often is his hard but sacred duty.—Lange.
1 Kings 14:4. Putting off her royal attire, and putting on more demure apparel, like as many hypocrites do, conforming themselves to the company they come into, and walking in a disguise till God detect them.—Trapp.
1 Kings 14:6. The visions of Ahijah were inward; neither was his bodily sight more dusky than the eyes of his mind were clear and piercing. It was not the common light of men whereby he saw, but divine illumination; things absent, things future, were no less obvious to those spiritual beams, than present things are to us. Ere the quick eyes of that great lady can discern him, he hath espied her; and, so soon as he hears the sound of her feet, she hears from him the sound of her name, “Come in, thou wife of Jeroboam.” How God laughs in heaven at the frivolous fetches of crafty politicians, and when they think themselves most sure, shames them with a detection, with a defeat! What an idleness it is for foolish hypocrites to hope they can dance in a net, unseen of heaven.—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 14:7-16. Woful tidings these for a mother’s heart; and scarcely, perhaps, intelligible to her stunned intellect. Here was the beginning of judgment upon Jereboam and upon her, because she was his—judgment in taking away the only well-conditioned and worthy son; and judgment stored up in and for the ill-conditioned ones who were suffered to remain. God, when it suits the purpose of His wisdom and His justice, can afflict no less by what He spares than by what He takes. Yet there was mercy in this judgment—mercy, strange as it seems to say, to that amiable youth on whom the sentence of death was passed. It is so stated; and it is more intelligible than it seems. It was because there was some good thing found in him that he should die. Death was to be for him a reward, a blessing, a deliverance. He should die peaceably upon his bed; for him all Israel should mourn; for him many tears should be shed, and he should be brought with honour to his tomb; more than all, he would be taken from the evil that hung over his house; and the Lord’s vindicatory justice would thus be spared the seeming harshness of bringing ruin upon a righteous king for his father’s crimes. Alas! how little do we know the real objects of the various incidents of life and death—of mercy, of punishment, and of trial! In this case, the motives were disclosed, and we are suffered to glance upon some of the great secrets of death, which form the trying mysteries of life. With this instance in view, we can find the parallels of lives, full of hope and promise, prematurely taken, and that in mercy, as we can judge, to those who depart. The Heavenly Husbandman often gathers for his garner the fruit that early ripens, without suffering it to hang needlessly long, beaten by storms, upon the tree. Oh! how often, as many a grieved heart can tell, do the Lord’s best beloved die betimes—taken from the evil to come—while the unripe, the evil, the injurious, live long for mischief to themselves and others. Roses and lilies wither far sooner than thorns and thistles.—Kitto.
1 Kings 14:7-16. Terrible is that vengeance which God thunders against him by his prophet, whose passionate message upbraids him with his promotions, chargeth him with his sins, and, lastly, denounceth his judgments. No mouth was fitter to cast this royalty in the teeth of Jeroboam than that by which it was foretold, fore-promised; every circumstance of the advancement aggravates the sin. “I exalted thee;” thou couldst not rise to honour alone. “I exalted thee from among the people;” not from the peers, thy rank was but common before this rise. “I exalted thee from among the people, to be a prince;” subordinate height was not enough for thee; no seat would serve thee but a throne; “yea, to be a prince of my people Israel.” No nation was for thee but my chosen one; none but my royal inheritance; neither did I raise thee into a vacant throne; a forlorn and forsaken principality might be thankless, but “I rent the kingdom from another for thy sake.” Yea. from what other but the grandchild of David! Out of his hand did I wrest the sceptre, to give it into thine. O, what high favours doth God sometimes cast away upon unworthy subjects! How do His abused bounties double both their sin and judgment!—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 14:9. Unexampled wickedness. Seen—
1. In the basest ingratitude for great favours.
2. In the reckless abuse of great privileges.
3. In the persistent and defiant commission of great crimes.
4. In stolid indifference to the most awful warnings.
5. In the utter rejection of God.
6. Merits unexampled punishment.
1 Kings 14:10-15. Not a blessing, but a curse rests upon a house which turns its back upon the Lord and His commandments. And so, also, a people who forget the faith of their fathers lose all territory, are given up to all convulsions from within and from without, and go to destruction. Sin is the destruction of the people (Hebrews 10:28-30).
1 Kings 14:11. Dogs are the chief scavengers of Oriental cities. Troops of dogs, more than half wild, scour the streets by night, clearing away all the offal and carrion they can find. The vulture in the country districts, assisted sometimes by kites and crows, does the work of the dog in towns.—Rawlinson.
—To be cast out unburied is no great matter, natural men slight it. There is little difference to lie eaten of beasts above ground, or of worms beneath; yet when foretold to a man as a judgment denounced from God, as against that king (Jeremiah 22:19), it hath its own weight, carrying some stamp of God’s despising him; and though a man feels it not when it is done, yet he feels it looking on it beforehand, especially as threatened of God; sees himself, as it were, dragged about and torn.—Leighton.
—The ancient Medes are said to have thrown the bodies of their dying relatives to dogs, supposing it dishonourable to expire on their beds, or be deposited in the earth.—Mavor.
1 Kings 14:12-13. The death of a beloved child, for whom God has prepared good, is often the only and the supreme means of turning away the heart of the parents from sin and the world, and of winning them to the life in God to which they are strangers. For many a child it is a Divine blessing when it is early taken out of this vain world, and called away from surroundings in which there is danger of the corruption both of soul and body.
1 Kings 14:13. Imperfect goodness. We are taught here—I. That goodness may be partial and yet true.
1. Abijah’s goodness was true.
(1). It was a “good thing in him.” In whatever particular acts his piety found manifestation, it sprang from his heart.
(2). It was “a good thing found in him.” The Hebrew word here used signifies “finding without seeking.” In other words, his goodness was evident, manifest.
(3). It was “a good thing toward the Lord God of Israel.” True goodness springs from the love and fear of God. The goodness of the text was heart-felt, sincere, fruit-bearing, God-honouring goodness. Yet,
(2) Abijah’s goodness was imperfect. “Some good thing.” This is not the fullest eulogy. Not like the eulogy of Job, Caleb, Nathaniel, &c. All the surroundings of Abijah were most unfortunate. The tender opening flower was surrounded by a vicious atmosphere; and no wonder that, in some respects, it lacked completeness; no wonder that some of its leaves bore the taint of mildew. A true disciple—he was a weak one; a bright light—he was not the brightest. II. That real, but imperfect goodness is recognized and accepted by God. God praised and rewarded the piety of the young prince. God cannot overlook imperfect goodness. The eye readily discovers that in which we delight; God loves goodness, and wherever it springs—in unlikely places, in unlikely hearts—God knows it. And He accepts it. Learn here:
1. A lesson in judging of others. We must be charitable—men may be true, and not perfect. The jewel may have a flaw, and yet be a jewel.
2. There is a solemn lesson in this subject for those who, in most favourable circumstances, lack true goodness. Abijah, in most unfavourable circumstances, was true and beautiful. And so there are ever such. With nothing to help them but the grace of God, they live pure, godly, noble lives. What shall be said of those who lack true goodness despite the fact that they have every help and encouragement? God is not a hard master; but He must condemn such. 3. A lesson of encouragement for many who feel that with many failings they yet have the root of the matter in them. Your flowers are half hidden in the weeds; but be of good comfort; aim at the highest, work for it, hope for it, and He shall not cast you out.—W. L. Watkinson.
—Dr. Kane, finding a flower under the Humbolt glacier, was more affected by it because it grew beneath the lip and cold bosom of the ice, than he would have been by the most gorgeous garden bloom. So some single struggling grace in the heart of one far removed from Divine influences may be dearer to God than a whole catalogue of virtues in the life of one more favoured of heaven.
—And let me tell you, that as it is a eulogy in any one to be good in a bad family, so it must proportionably be a horrid brand upon any one to be bad in a good family. It was thought fit to be put upon record, concerning Abijah, the son of Jeroboam, that “there was some good thing found in him;” good desires, good inclinations, even in so wicked a family, as Jeroboam’s was. It is proportionably a horrid mark upon that person who continueth ungodly in a godly family; that is, a prayless wretch in a praying family; whose heart, at least, never prayeth, hath no desires after God; no contrition, no sense in the confession of sin; no love, no gratitude in the acknowledgment of mercy. For one to continue ungodly in a godly family, or to go out ungodly from a godly family, what a horrid thing will this be! How much of terror and amazement will it carry in it at last, when the case comes to open itself to view, and to be looked upon and considered in its proper and native aspect! And even as it now is, to think with oneself, “That such or such children or fellow-servants in a family where I may have lived a considerable time, may have had their hearts melted in hearing the Word read and applied, but mine was always hard; they have had their souls humbled in the acknowledgment of sin, but mine was unhumbled; they have had desires enlarged in seeking for mercy, but I had no desire after spiritual good.” To live so in a good family, and to go out such from a good family. Oh! the horror of this ease, and the reflections it will cause in the close of time; or, if not so, in an eternity of misery that will never end!—Howe.
—If we would wish to discover whether there were any particles of steel in a large quantity of rubbish, it would not be the wisest way to search for them, and especially in the dark, but to hold a large and efficacious magnet over it. And this, if it be there, is the way to discover true religion in our souls. The truths and promises of God are, to a principle of religion in the mind, that which the magnet is to the steel; if there be any in us, the proper exhibition of the Gospel will ordinarily draw it forth.—A. Fuller.
1 Kings 14:16. The fatal consequences of sin. I. Sin corrupts the individual the more it is committed. “The sins of Jeroboam who did sin.” II. Is contagious in its nature and tyrannical in its rule. “And made Israel to sin.” III. Involves a whole nation in degradation and ruin. “And He shall give Israel up.”
—To tempt and lead another into sin, is worse than to sin thyself. It shows sin to be of great growth in that man that doth it knowingly and willingly. Herbs and flowers do not shed their seed till ripe; creatures propagate not till they are of stature and age! What do those that tempt others, but diffuse their wicked opinions and practices, and, as it were, raise up seed to the devil, thereby to keep up the name of their infernal father in the world? This shows sin to be mighty in them indeed!—Gurnall.
—If the Lord say, he who offends one of the least of these (Matthew 18:6), what will He say to those who give offence to an entire people, at the head of which they stand, through unbelief and immorality, and beguile them into an apostasy from the living God?
1 Kings 14:17. Doleful were the tidings the disguised princess had to bear back to the beautiful town of Tirzah. All remoter griefs were probably to her swallowed up in this—which rung continually in her ears in all her homeward way—“When thy feet enter into the city the child shall die.” It is heavy tidings to a mother that she must lose her well-beloved son; but it is a grievous aggravation of her trouble that she might not see him before she died. They who were about him knew not that he was to die to-day, and therefore could not estimate the preciousness of his last hours, and the privilege of being then near him, and of receiving his embrace. She knew: but she might not be near, nor pour out upon her dying son the fulness of a mother’s heart. Knowing that her son lay on his death bed, her first impulse must have been to fly home to receive his dying kiss; but her second to linger by the way, as if to protract that dear life which must close the moment she entered the city. Never, surely, before or since, was a distressed mother so wofully torn between the antagonist impulses of her affection! At last her weary steps reached the city; and as she entered the gates her son died, and she was only in time to press to her arms the heart still warm, although it had ceased to beat.—Kitto.
1 Kings 14:18. Sorrow for the dead.
1. May melt the hardest heart.
2. Is profound and general at the grave of the good.
3. Does not always lead to the abandonment of sin.
—A nation in mourning.
1. A pathetic sight.
2. Shows an appreciation of a virtuous life in the midst of national corruption.
3. Affords an opportunity for making serious resolutions to live a truer life.
—Yet what a mixture is here of severity and favour in one act!—favour to the son, severity to the father: severity to the father, that he must lose such a son; favour to the son, that he shall be taken from such a father. Jeroboam is wicked, and therefore he shall not enjoy an Abijah; Abijah hath some good things, therefore he shall be removed from the danger of the depravation of Jeroboam. The best are fittest for heaven, the earth is fittest for the worst; this is the region of sin and misery, that of immortality. It is no argument of disfavour to be taken early from a well-led life, as not of approbation to age in sin.—Bp. Hall.
1 Kings 14:19-20. The Scripture says, the memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the godless will perish (Proverbs 10:7). The first is true of David, the last of Jeroboam, whose name is not like an ointment pouring out diffusing sweet perfume (Ecclesiastes 1:3), but is a savour of death unto death; for with his name, for all the future, this word is connected, “Who sinned, and made Israel to sin.” Of what use is it to have worn a worldly crown two-and-twenty years, to have striven and fought for it, when the crown of life does not succeed it, which they alone obtain who are faithful unto death! (Revelation 2:10).—Lange.
1 Kings 14:20. He lay down. “This shall ye have of my hand, ye shall lie down in sorrow” (Isaiah 1:11). He died not the common death of all men, but by some remarkable stroke: beside the loss of five hundred thousand of his men in one battle with Ahijah king of Judah (2 Chronicles 13:17-20).
—The details of Jeroboam’s end are lost to us. It is overclouded by unsuccessful wars with Judah, by wasting illness, and by the violent convulsion in which his remains, and those of his children, were torn from their sepulchres. To observe clearly wherein his sins consisted, is to observe the moral of the whole part of the history. It was not that he had revolted against the house of Judah, for this, according to the narrative, had been put upon him by the direct providence and sanction of God. Nor that he had fallen into idolatry. This was the sin of Solomon and Rehoboam, against which his whole life was a perpetual protest. It was that to secure certain good ends, he adopted doubtful and dangerous means. The anticipations of the prophets concerning him had been frustrated. Like the apostolic Las Casas, in the sad history of South America, they saw with bitter grief the failure of the institution which they had fostered, and from which they had hoped so much. It is this reflection which gives a keenness of regret to the epithet so many times repeated, “The sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin.” To keep the first commandment, he broke the second; to preserve the belief in the unity of God, he broke the unity and tampered with the spiritual conception of the national worship. The ancient sanctity of Dan and Bethel, the time-honoured Egyptian sanction of the Sacred Calf, were mighty precedents; the Golden Image was doubtless intended as a likeness of the one true God. But the mere fact of setting up such a likeness broke down the sacred awe which had hitherto marked the Divine presence, and accustomed the minds of the Israelites to the very sin against which the new form was intended to be a safeguard. From worshipping God under a false and unauthorized form, they gradually learnt to worship other gods altogether, and the venerable sanctuaries at Dan and Bethel prepared the way for the temples of Ashtaroth and Baal at Samaria and Jezreel; and the religion of the kingdom of Israel at last sank lower even than that of the kingdom of Judah, against which it had revolted. “The sin of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat,” is the sin again and again repeated in the policy, half worldly, half religious, which has prevailed through large tracts of ecclesiastical history. Many are the forms of worship in the Christian Church which, with high pretensions, have been nothing else but “so many various and opposite ways of breaking the second commandment.” Many a time has the end been held to justify the means; and the Divine character been degraded by the pretence or even the sincere intention of upholding His cause: for the sake of secular aggrandisement; for the sake of binding together good systems, which, it was feared, would otherwise fall to pieces; for the sake of supporting the faith of the multitude, from the fear lest they should fall away to rival sects, or lest the enemy should come and take away their place and nation, false arguments have been used in support of religious truth, false miracles promulgated or tolerated, false readings in the sacred text defended. And so the faith of mankind has been undermined by the very means intended to preserve it. The whole subsequent history is a record of the mode by which, with the best intentions, a church and nation may be corrupted.—Stanley.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES.—
1 Kings 14:21-31. From incidents associated with the kingdom of ISRAEL, the historian now turns to JUDAH.
1 Kings 14:28. Naamah an Ammonitess—Sept. reads: “Daughter of Ana [Hanun?] son of Naas [Nahash], king of the Ammonites. Her heathen extraction is marked as indicating her natural alienation from the religion of Jehovah. As queen-mother, she had great influence in the Government.
1 Kings 14:23. Images and groves—On “groves,”vide Note on.
1 Kings 14:15. supra. Here מַצְּבַה, “images” or pillars,” from נָצַה, to he firmly set, or made fast; probably stone pillars, or monumental idols, representing the male deity, Baal, as the Ashterahs, wooden idols, represented the female deity.
1 Kings 14:24. There were also sodomites in the land—הַקְּדֵשִׁים. These were vicious paramours, detestable persons who practised, as a religious rite, a vile self-desecration. They were male prostitutes, and are ranked in Scripture with harlots (Deuteronomy 23:17).
1 Kings 14:25. Shishak, king of Egypt—On the Karnak basrelief this Sheshonk (as he is named in Egyptian monuments) is represented as dragging Jewish captives.—W. H. J.
HOMILETICS OF 1 Kings 14:21-31
IDOLATRY AS A CAUSE OF NATIONAL DECAY
I. That idolatry is a degradation to the holiest place. “Jerusalem, the city which the Lord did choose out of all the tribes of Israel to put His name there” (1 Kings 14:21). The spot was hallowed as the dwelling-place of Jehovah and by manifold revelations of His glory. It was no slight degradation that this holy city should be debased by the idolatrous rites of the heathen. Idolatry pollutes everything it touches. “There was no visible church upon earth but here; and this what a one! O God, how low dost thou sometimes suffer thine own flock to be driven! what woful wanes and eclipses hast thou ordained for this heavenly body. But the gloomy times of corruption shall not last always, the light of truth and peace shall at length break out, and bless the sad hearts of the righteous.”
II. That idolatry is the originator and patron of the most abominable vices.
1. It corrupts a whole nation. “And Judah did evil above all that their fathers had done” (1 Kings 14:22-23). It is no longer the individual monarch who is blamed, but the people; the evil practices have become national. One sinner destroyeth much good; one false officer may corrupt an entire army; an idolatrous king is a curse to a country. The mother of Rehoboam was an Ammonitess (1 Kings 14:21), a bad wife for a king of Israel; and her son soon partook more of the temper of Ammon, the idolater, than of the spirit of Abraham.
2. It sanctions the most abominable vices (1 Kings 14:24). What a strange incongruity is this—Sodom in Jerusalem! idols in Judah! Surely debauched profession proves desperate; admit the idols, you cannot doubt of the sodomy. If they have changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things, it is no marvel if God gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves. They dishonoured God by one sin, and God left them to dishonour themselves by another. The most outrageous sins have been committed under the sanction of idolatrous worship.
3. It is specially offensive to God. “They provoked Him to jealousy with their sins” (1 Kings 14:22). This expression is a metaphor which views the relation of God and His people as the marriage covenant, in which the people are represented as a faithless wife. No act of infidelity can be so secret as to elude the eyes of God. “Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord.” What emotions must arise in the heart of God as He is a silent and invisible Spectator of the sins of His people!
III. That idolatry destroys the bravery of a nation.
1. It is powerless to repel the invasion of an enemy (1 Kings 14:25). It may be that Jeroboam incited the Egyptian king to make war against Judah; but it is a revelation of the condition of weakness into which the kingdom had sunk that Jeroboam saw his rival would become an easy prey to the Egyptian army. How great a change was this to the vigour and bravery of the days of David, when the surrounding nations were kept in awe by his victorious sword, and the Jewish kingdom acquired the position of a first-rate military power! Idolatry emasculates the manhood of a people, and it becomes demoralized and cowed in the presence of an enemy which before it had confronted with bravery.
2. It reduces a nation to poverty (1 Kings 14:26-28). Religion promotes the wealth of a nation and guards it from spoliation. While Rehoboam and his people walked in the fear of God (2 Chronicles 11:17), the accumulated riches of Solomon remained undisturbed; but when they forsook the Lord (ib. 1 Kings 12:1), then Shishak, the instrument of Divine retribution, was permitted to invade Jerusalem and carry away its immense treasures. And now, instead of the golden shields which glittered in the presence of Solomon on great state occasions, Rehoboam is glad enough to substitute brass—an emblem of the degeneracy of Judah. How soon the mention of the profusion of gold in the age of Solomon is succeeded by this mention of brass in its place! Such are the evanescent vanities of this world’s riches! Idolatry will bring the most prosperous nation to beggary.
IV. That idolatry is a fruitful source of fraternal enmity. “There was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (1 Kings 14:30). Not merely a feeling of hostility, but frequent wars. We are not to suppose that the Word of the Lord by Shemaiah (1 Kings 12:24) was any more observed in the later history of Rehoboam than it was by his sons. Of all quarrels, those between people of near kindred are the most bitter and disastrous. Where true religion is ignored, the bond of unity and brotherhood is destroyed. Idolatry encourages a restless strife after an unholy and tyrannical supremacy, rather than contends for the honour of God and the supreme authority of His law.
V. That idolatry hurries its votaries to an untimely and dishonoured grave (1 Kings 14:31). Brief as was the reign of Rehoboam, that of his son and successor was briefer still (chap. 1 Kings 15:2). Sin shortens human life, robs it of many pleasures, and surrounds its close with gloom and misery. Even the pious are impressed with the brevity of life. “Alas!” was the touching lament of Grotius, “I have lost my life in doing nothing with great labour!” What can be said of the close of a life wasted in folly and in wicked opposition to God?
1. Religion it the secret of a nation’s greatness.
2. No nation can prosper when it forsakes God.
3. There is no limit to the abominations of a nation when it gives itself up to idolatry.
GERM N0TES ON THE VERSES
1 Kings 14:21-30. The deep fall of Judah. I. Whence it came (Deuteronomy 32:15; Hosea 13:6; Proverbs 30:9). II. Whither it led (Romans 1:25; Romans 1:28). Amongst individual men, as in entire communities, cities, and nations, revolt against the living God results from haughtiness, over-prosperity, and carnal security, bringing, as inevitable consequences, poverty, ruin, and misfortune in war. High as stood Judah under David and Solomon, so deep in proportion did it sink under Rehoboam.—Lange.
1 Kings 14:21-22. Wherever God has a house, the Devil always builds a chapel close at hand. How often does it happen that cities and countries, whence it has been ordained by God that the light of His knowledge should shine forth, have become the seat alike of superstition and of scepticism, and thus infinitely sink below the level of those lands which have never heard His blessed Word.
1 Kings 14:22. The enormity of sin. I. Is not unnoticed by the Omniscient One. It is committed “in the sight of God.” II. Is a trial to the love of God. “They provoked Him to jealousy with their sins.” III. Is a flagrant evidence of faithlessness to the Divine Covenant. IV. Earns an unenviable notoriety. “Above all that their fathers had done.”
—Idolatry and immorality rather increased than decreased, and the fall of Judah seems to have been even deeper than that of Israel. However, the condition of Judah was not so bad as the condition of Israel in this respect; as in the latter the breach of the fundamental law had become the state religion and institution of the kingdom, the separate existence of which depended on the new worship; whilst in Judah the apostasy was only permitted, and the lawful worship of Jehovah had always a firm footing at the central sanctuary. Many good elements also still existed in Judah (2 Chronicles 20:12). Judah always repented as often as they fell into idolatry, and they continued to be the guardian of the law; whilst Israel, on the contrary, never completely returned to the right way.—Lange.
1 Kings 14:23-24. Wherever profligacy and fornication are in the ascendant, there is true heathendom, how many soever may be the churches. King Rehoboam, too, sinned grievously in this wise he, although not himself an idol-worshipper, yet failed as a servant of God, in that he did not oppose idol worship with all his might, and even regarded it as having equal rights with the service of the true God—even, alas! as we find Christian sovereigns who permit unbelief and revolt from the truth to rank upon a level with faith and confession of God in Christ.—Ibid.
1 Kings 14:23. One great object of the Mosaic dispensation was to maintain, in the persons of the Israelites, a living testimony against the polytheism which had overspread the nations; and whatever might directly or indirectly tend to the worship of many gods, or to the associating of other gods of man’s devising with the only real God, Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth, was carefully guarded against and discouraged. When, in process of time, the high places and groves of primitive worship became consecrated to divers idols, the danger was that, in adopting the use of them, the Israelites should retain some lingering recollection of the God to whom they had been set apart; and this, gathering strength, would insensibly lead them into idolatry, and to the association of other gods with Jehovah.—Kitto.
1 Kings 14:25. Where the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together (Matthew 24:28). The chastisements of God are never delayed where immorality and godlessness prevail, but they do not always lead, as with Judah, to the humble confession, “The Lord is righteous” (2 Chronicles 22:6). Sovereigns are often only the instruments of God in their undertakings, although they do not or will not recognize the fact.—Calwer.
—So long as Rehoboam continued in a right course, the king of Egypt was restrained by the Lord from the measures he contemplated; but no sooner had the king, with his people, sinned against Jehovah, than the hands of this powerful prince were loosened, and he proceeded to invade the land with a mighty host. This was the first time the Egyptians had appeared in the sacred land with hostile purposes against the Hebrews; and it is probable that so formidable a body of chariots, horsemen, and infantry had never before invaded the country. The appearance of this new enemy, whose power and resources they well knew, must have filled the Judahites with dread—the rather, as their unfaithfulness had disentitled them to the right of looking to the Lord for his protection.—Kitto.
1 Kings 14:26. The true treasures of the Temple are the worship of God in spirit and in truth, prayer, faith, love, and obedience: these no thieves nor robbers can steal and without them all the gold and silver in temples and churches is vain and empty show. Golden or copper shields are alike in value if only we can say: “The Lord is our shield, and the Holy One of Israel our King.”
1 Kings 14:27-28. The pride of poverty. I. Descends to paltry imitations. II. Delights in pompous parade. III. Exaggerates the value of what it possesses.
—It is better to pray to our Heavenly Father in our closet, rather than to worship with pomp in church to be seen by men. Yet now there are many who ceremoniously frequent the churches, but neglect to maintain the fear of God, discipline, and good morals in their own houses and neighbourhood.
1 Kings 14:30-31. It is not to a man’s honour when, at his grave, these words are said: There was life-long enmity between him and his neighbour.—Lange.
1 Kings 14:30. Jealousy a fruitful source of mischief. I. Engenders hatred among the nearest kindred. II. Is the cause of the most horrible wars. III. Is very difficult to allay.
1 Kings 14:31. We are not to conclude that Rehoboam himself served idols; on the contrary, it is emphatically said, that in solemn procession, accompanied by his whole body-guard, he continually visited the Temple, and thus showed himself publicly to the people as a worshipper of Jehovah. But he forsook the law in so far that he did not obey its injunctions; he suffered idolatrous worship in Jerusalem, and did nothing towards exterminating it. This was the evil he was accused of: he continued Jehovah’s servant, but he wanted firmness and decision. Sometimes fiery and arrogant, sometimes yielding and weak, he was unstable, as he had shown himself in Shechem at the commencement of his reign. He seems also to have been under the influence of his idolatrous mother (1 Kings 14:31), and wife (chap. 1 Kings 15:13), and of his many wives (2 Chronicles 11:21).—Lange.